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CALIFORNIANS BUY OLD JORDAN HIGH

The Catholic Diocese and a vocal following lost out to a developer with more cash on hand Tuesday as the Jordan Board of Education voted unanimously to sell historic Jordan High to a San Francisco buyer for apartments and offices.

SNK Realty Group will pay $4 million in cash for the school and the 21.66 acres on which it sits at 9400 South and State Street. SNK will keep the majestic front facade of the school's main building and the northern wall intact, and use similar architecture in other buildings along State Street.The school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It is the highest offer, and they will maintain the motif of the original 1914 Jordan High building," district administrator of auxiliary services Bob Day said in recommending SNK's bid to the board.

Board member Maurine Jensen said the group "sweated about it and prayed about it," but ultimately decided to put money first for the financially squeezed district. "We had to be business people."

Supporters of the Catholic Church bid who jammed the district board room called the decision shortsighted and limiting. "Are you a board of education or are you a board of business?" Jackie Burns asked.

Pat Coffey said the board must make a community decision rather than a business decision. "We are your constituents and we come to you in a spirit of fellowship . . . now we would like you to take that spirit and come back and reconsider," she said. "We aren't the complainers, we're the contributors."

Burns, who lives in Herriman, said she and other south valley Catholic families support the district with their taxes, while relieving some overcrowding pressures.

But choices are limited for a Catholic education, said Sandy resident Chris Lovato. "I've got two children in the Catholic school system now, but when they get to high school, I can't send them 17 miles one way to school."

The Catholic Diocese offered $3.5 million for the school but proposed to lease the property for $17,500 per month for one year, then reconsider an option to buy.

Russ Booth, of Mansell Commercial Real Estate Services, said the district would lose money earned over the year if it accepted the option and that the property would be less saleable if the diocese decided not to buy.

Jensen agreed. "It's one thing to have good intentions. We're sure the intentions would come to fruition, but not sure enough," she said.

"When has the Catholic Church ever showed the state of Utah it doesn't do things in good faith?" Burns responded.

Father Joseph Mayo seemed resigned to the board's decision and called the Catholic bid "humble."

"We realize the realities of the business world, but you haven't heard the last of us," he said.

The district received five bids in all. Four others included those from a Santa Fe real estate investment trust, a new limited liability corporation owned by Salt Lake resident Mark Mabey, the Utah High School for the Performing and Fine Arts and the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake.

A 250-unit apartment complex and recreation room will sit next to three office buildings.