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30-acre Lolo School building, property sold to California home-building company

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The Lolo School District has sold its 30-acre school building and property for $4.1 million.

The district broke ground this spring on a new $26 million, K-8 building, which will open on Farm Lane in 2023. Voters in the district passed a $22.1 million bond in 2020 to help pay for a much-needed new facility. The school will use the proceeds from the sale of the old building, the bond money, and some federal COVID-related funding to pay for the new school.

The sale of the old building closed on June 15, according to a press release from the district.

"The school will begin to lease the property until it moves into the new building," explained district superintendent Dale Olinger. "The new building is presently under construction with a target completion date of September 2023."

Lolo voters also approved the sale of the old property in 2020.

It's not clear what will happen to the prime property in the middle of the community.

"The buyer has not provided a firm plan for the property but will likely begin to develop one now that the sale is complete," Olinger explained. "The purchasing company, MCG Vines LLC, is a subsidiary of a larger company with lots of development experience. The school has no influence over the development plans."

According to public documents, a company called DeNova Homes in California is the larger company. The registered agent of MCG Vines is listed as Dana Tsubota, who is also the executive vice president and general counsel at DeNova Homes.

The company offers new home construction, sales and financing. Home prices in western Montana have skyrocketed in the last decade, and especially since the start of the pandemic, due to increased demand and a lack of supply to accommodate that demand.

A representative for DeNova Homes did not return a call seeking comment.

The current Lolo School, which is a K-8 school, is scattered across multiple buildings near Highway 93 in the middle of Lolo. The district has been trying to build a new campus for many years.

Olinger said the original Lolo School building burned down in the late 1800s, and at least one of the current buildings was built in 1900. The district decided that something that is more suitable for highway-fronting land should be built at the old site.

The new facility will be about 86,000 square feet, with a bigger cafeteria and an additional gymnasium.

"Our current building is about 84,000 square feet, but it has lots of unusable or impractical space," Olinger said.

The district had been planning to build a much larger school, but surging construction costs have forced them to scale back their plans since 2020.

The district has had about 550 students every year for the past few years, but the new building will give them space for about 700. Olinger said they are planning for the old site to be developed with new houses, which could mean new families with kids in the district.

"That's our prediction for what's going to happen here," he said. "There's other developments in the county and in the Lolo area that are in the hopper."

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