Construction began in mid-March on the former Cloquet Middle School apartment project.
The demolition began on the third floor and proceeded down to the first floor, where construction is underway. Former classrooms and restrooms are being gutted. Construction workers shovel piles of broken concrete into wheelbarrows and outside to the designated dumpster.
On the top floor, apartment units are already framed in several rooms and plumbing is being installed.
According to Todd Loeffler, superintendent for Anderson Companies, everything that can be recycled will be, from wood, to concrete, to metals. Many of the original items, like the brightly colored lockers that line the hallways, will be staying. So will some chalkboards when possible and classroom doors are being saved to possibly use later on.
"All of the wood floors, all of the old trim, terrazzo flooring, we're keeping it as original as it was in the 1920s," Loeffler said.
Some of the hallways still look the same as when students roamed them, only eerily empty. Others have missing ceiling tiles, equipment lining the hall and workers bustling about.
They are working on the building in sections - currently in the west wing of the 100-year-old school building. When they complete that wing, they will move to the other side and begin work on the east wing and parking lots.
"We have to keep the swimming pool building. We can't take it down because of the historical significance," Loeffler explained.
He said the building's exterior is designated as historical, but not inside where the pool is located, so that can be used as a parking lot. The cafeteria will also become parking for the tenants, while the original auditorium and upstairs gym will remain.
Roers Investments purchased the building in December 2017, saving the school district $1.4 million in demolition costs.
The school opened in 1920 as a high school after the original burned in the 1918 fires. Later, a new high school was built and the building became a Junior High School, then a middle school in the 1970s.
The Pine Journal reported on March 31, 2017, that the cost to purchase the building was $99,500. Minnesota Housing was expected to provide more than $7.7 million in tax credit equity to convert the school into housing.
There will be 57 mixed-income one-, two- and three-bedroom residential apartments. Of the 57 units, 80 percent will be at workforce housing rent levels and 20 percent will be market rate.