LILA granted final approval for second campus

Charter school’s new building expected to open next fall


Clint Riese
News Editor

After a drawn-out property search and an extensive approval process, Lakes International Language Academy on Monday obtained final approval from the city to build a second campus in Forest Lake.

The new school building for fourth through sixth grades will occupy the only lot in a new subdivision planned west of Fenway Avenue. The land is straight west of the Headwaters Development, between the Eagle Bluff subdivision and the Taylor farm.

Officials at the public charter school began eyeing land for a second home due to enrollment escalating to capacity at the original and current K-6 campus at 246 SE 11th Ave. Enrollment has climbed steadily and received a boost in the 2011-2012 school year with the addition of a Mandarin Chinese immersion track. This year the school has spilled over into a building across the street. Just more than 700 students attend Lakes International, and that number could rise to as high as 950 within a few years.

The LILA Building Company in January entered into a purchase agreement with developer Len Pratt for a 10-acre parcel in Headwaters. School officials secured conduit financing through the city of Forest Lake, allowing up to $19 million in capital through the city’s bonding authority. However, the plan fell through in July due to concern from the school’s board that the property may not be large enough.

The new site, also being developed by Pratt, came into play this fall. The City Council reaffirmed the conduit financing package and a neighborhood meeting was held Nov. 14 to discuss the proposed Headwaters Seventh Addition.

Monday’s final step entailed the council granting unanimous approval of a conditional use permit and site plan for the new facility.

Bond financing must be secured, but school officials are confident any potential pitfalls will be avoided and construction will start in the spring. The goal remains for the new campus to open for the 2014-2015 school year.

A 40,000-square-foot, two-story structure will hold up to 350 students and 35 staff members and include 17 classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria, media center and other features.

The north end of the 12.34-acre lot will be graded for future sports fields.

Headwaters Parkway will be extended and run along the south end of the campus, where it will connect to Fenway Avenue. A new road, 198th Street, will form the western boundary.

Sidewalks will be installed along 198th Street and up Fenway Avenue to 200th Street, and a trail will line the addition to Headwaters Parkway.

  • LILA has done a great job and it’s growth would not occur if it hadn’t been so successful.