Brett Reese

Brett Reese introduces himself to community members at the old EWC/Northside Grade School during a gathering Nov. 17. Reese purchased the building from the school district, and is interested in how the property can better-serve Douglas.

For him, it was worth saving.

The yellow-bricked hallways of the old Northside Grade School and former Eastern Wyoming College building hold sentimental value for Brett Reese. He walked those very corridors 38 years earlier as a sixth-grader.

Brett didn’t think much about the building as he went on with his life.

That is, until the Douglas School District placed the building up for bid Nov. 7. Concerns of the building potentially being scrapped prompted Reese to take action and place a bid.

On Nov. 12, Reese’s bid of $109,000 was accepted by the school board, with his younger brother, school board Trustee Brad Reese, abstaining. The only other bid, one with an offer of $80,000, was submitted by Unity Christian Fellowship.

The thought of what could potentially be done with the space excites Reese.

“It’s about bringing it to life and having some fun,” he said. “I’d like to make that a community building. I think that’s the important part. I want to make it busy, every day.”

For him, the new endeavor is a chance to fill some needs otherwise nonexistent in Douglas, while helping others at the same time.

He’s met with administrators from the City of Douglas and folks who have utilized the building for one of the numerous activities housed inside over the years. He says that is critical to gather useful information to move ahead accordingly.

“(The city) told me what Douglas needs is a community event center and affordable housing,” Brett said. “I think the city would be open to a lot of the things I’m talking about.”

Thoughts of improving the expansive auditorium that seats approximately 300 could bring dance recitals, weddings, concerts and other functions to the building. He noted his career in radio has created contacts which may help him bring in small venue acts someday.

During his research, Reese learned of other local organizations which would like to use the auditorium and others who are interested in the adjacent classrooms that could be turned into affordable office spaces or kept as-is.

A PLACE TO WORSHIP

For the past two years, the building has been rented by the Assembly of God. The location was a step up for the religious organization in terms of space, as they could spread out more for worship in the auditorium, small group gatherings in the classroom spaces and activities in the gymnasium.

On the flip side, Assembly of God didn’t need all of the space that came with the monthly rental every hour of every day and welcomed other organizations to utilize it fairly often. The church, meanwhile, still owned its property along S. 4th Street, where they allowed Unity Christian Fellowship to occupy their previous home for services roughly for a year and a half. With Assembly of God’s rental agreement running through the end of November, the church officials opted to move back to their S. 4th Street location. They resumed worship services there Sunday.

This meant Unity Christian Fellowship had to find a new home, and fast. The church was allowed to have its service at Northside Nov. 17, even as it was submitting its own bid for the property.

“We are now in search of a new home,” Unity Christian Fellowship Pastor Matt Fox stated in his bid letter.

As it turns out, Reese is also a man of faith. Around 3 years ago, the man founded Real Church in his current home of Greeley, Colorado, which is a felon, ink and dysfunction-friendly church. In addition to his work as a pastor, Reese also serves as a jail chaplain.

He also has 20 years of remodeling apartments under his belt.

Reese noted it was not his intention to supplant the church, and he wanted to help them as much as he could. With that, he stated in his bid proposal his interest in working out a deal to allow Unity Christian Fellowship and other churches to use the space. He said he was fine with the possibility of renting office/classrooms and the use of the auditorium for services.

Nothing has been set in motion just yet, but Fox is excited and hopeful his church can use the space just as they did the morning of Nov. 17 for Sunday worship.

“I think it would be really great if Brett were to allow the church to use it and different organizations to use it,” Fox said. “It would really be an awesome opportunity.

According to Fox, two additional churches have expressed interest in using the space for programming, as have others who had used the space in the past.

Despite a few issues with the physical structure, the building has proven to be still valuable for many groups and individuals during the years since it was a grade school, and school officials have said the building may not be as in bad shape as once thought.

COMMUNITY-FIRST

On the evening of Nov. 17, Reese was standing in a classroom 38 years after his schooling inside those very walls, surrounded by individuals just as interested in keeping the space viable.

He wanted to know who was using the building and what they were using it for.

“We believe this is a community project,” he said, noting there are some logistical items to iron out as they begin moving forward. “We want to brainstorm as a collective community and say, ‘What do we want to do with this and what can we do with this.’ I really don’t have any specific plans except to continue to allow the church to rent that affordably.”

Numerous groups came out to help Reese and his wife Chrisann in moving forward, and to let him know just how important it was to them that they continue using the building in the future.

“Part of this is knowing what you want,” he told the group.

It was merely the first step of many, but for Reese, the future of the old grade school building is bright.

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