PROVO — A private park in west Provo formerly used by Geneva Steel employees will soon be home to a private school.

The Utah Valley State College Foundation's board accepted a proposal from the Meridian School to purchase the park last week. The school plans to construct a 50,000-square-foot, two-story building on the approximately 8-acre park, located at 900 N. 1200 West.

Several developers bid on the property, but Meridian won out because the area was already zoned for a school.

"We needed to move along," said Ian Wilson, UVSC vice president of institutional advancement. "The other two or three offers depended on rezoning, but Meridian had no contingencies."

Area residents are pleased with the outcome, though they originally hoped to convince Provo to take over the park.

"The neighbors are content," said David Griffith, Rivergrove neighborhood chairman. "The school seems willing to work with the neighborhood on the future use of the area."

Provo City Councilman Dave Knect had supported the neighborhood's former plan to create a city park, but Meridian's bid was accepted before the city could make any formal plans.

But Knect still thinks it's possible the city will arrange with Meridian to enable public access to the grounds.

"If they do, it would be a win-win situation," said Knect. "If they did decide to keep it closed, they're going to have some liability issues."

Knect mentioned a lease agreement for the grounds as a possible solution, with the city assuming liability.

Meridian School headmaster David Hennessey said it's too early to make any promises.

"We'd like it to be an asset for the neighborhood," Hennessey said. "I'm interested in talking with the city at some point (regarding the use of the grounds)."

The school hopes to begin construction on the new building by August and be ready for classes by fall 2005. Meridian will soon begin a largely word-of-mouth campaign to raise funds for the construction.

Meridian has been looking to relocate since the property it currently leases on 931 E. 300 North was sold two years ago. At one point the school wanted to take over the Maeser Elementary School building but was outbid.

Property owners for the current Meridian site, Lewis and Tom Bankhead, want to develop the area into BYU-approved student housing and currently have a proposal before the Planning Commission.

Some of the school's current neighbors aren't thrilled at the prospect.

"There are some people near the school who really don't want to see high-density housing come in," said Knect.

Foothills neighborhood chairman Sam Ray said some residents are very unhappy, some have a few concerns, like traffic, and others don't really care.

"Those most concerned are those who live the closest," Ray said. "They don't want to lose the park next door."

While the impact of the school relocation on the Foothills neighborhood is uncertain, students at UVSC will certainly benefit, as money from the park's sale will go to fund scholarships.

The money will be available to the school after the deal closes, probably in mid-August.

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