PROVO — School board officials reserved the right to name another school after Karl G. Maeser as they agreed Tuesday to an option that would preserve a 105-year-old landmark that bears his name.

The Provo School Board twice postponed deadlines to raze the historic Maeser Elementary School while it sought a buyer whose proposed use for the building would satisfy board members, neighbors and historic preservationists.

"This is a great day in Provo," said Greg Hudnall, an administrator in

the Provo School District. "We've worked on this project for more than two years. The district has spent over $100,000 trying to support the Maeser neighborhood and protect the facility."

The board voted 5-0 to approve a $20,000 option that gives the Provo Housing Authority the right to purchase the property before Feb. 2. The authority offered $750,000 and agreed to spend as much as $3.25 million more to renovate the school and refit it for low-income housing for senior citizens.

Housing authority director Doug Carlson agreed to a last-minute provision that would allow the school district to name another school after the legendary educator who was the founder of Brigham Young Academy, which became Brigham Young University.

Before the option agreement is formally signed, likely within the next week, the parties need to finalize language on the naming rights issue, the district's responsibility to protect the property until the sale and the use of preservation easements that would rule out future demolition of the building.

The housing authority plans to remodel the building's interior to provide 32 units for independent-living seniors 55 or older who earn less than $17,000 a year. Land around the school would be divided into 12 parcels and sold to developers for construction of single-family homes. The sale of the land would help finance the project.

Other funds would come from tax credits available for low-income housing and historic preservation projects.

"We now have more than six months to conduct studies and seek the tax credits," Carlson said. "When I'm comfortable with the success of the plan, we'll execute the option."

"I feel very confident they will put the building to good use, an appropriate use, and active use," said Kirk Huffaker, assistant director of the Utah Heritage Foundation. "I have good confidence it will be done with preservation in mind, and the proposal has the backing of the neighborhood and the Friends of Maeser."


E-MAIL: twalch@desnews.com