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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 13 2012

Aldevron looking at former Woodrow Wilson building

FARGO – Aldevron, a Fargo-based biotechnology firm, wants to buy the former Woodrow Wilson School, but school board members took no action Tuesday on the firm’s latest offer for the building on the west edge of downtown.

The school district has tried to sell the building and the block on which it stands for a year. The asking price started at $1.45 million, but dropped to $1.1 million in January when a counteroffer was made to a then-undisclosed party.

It turns out, Aldevron was that suitor.

Board President Jim Johnson would not discuss Aldevron’s latest offer, discussed in a closed board session, though he’s “hopeful” for further talks.

Ron Robson, chief operating officer for Aldevron, also refused to share the particulars of the offer.

“We’ll just wait for their feedback and see where they’re at,” he said.

Robson said the firm has been looking at options to expand for two to three years but wants to have an answer on Woodrow by sometime in April.

“It would be a good fit” and would be good for the whole downtown area, Robson said.

“We kind of like the idea of repurposing a building, getting it going again. That’s kind of what caught our eye with Woodrow,” he said.

The 15-year-old firm has more than 70 employees between its facilities in Fargo; Madison, Wis.; and Freiburg, Germany.

Most of its employees are in three southside buildings in Fargo, Robson said.

Woodrow Wilson is large enough to consolidate Fargo operations, as well as significant expansion over the next decade, he said. A company handout said the building could house up to 200 employees.

In other business, the board learned that one of four semifinalist candidates for the district’s superintendent post has dropped out.

Johnson said Terry Brenner, director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development for Grand Forks Public Schools, asked to be withdrawn from consideration.

The remaining three semifinalists begin daylong rounds of interviews next week. The order of interviews will be:

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583