Three years after it closed, an Arena school is now an apartment, food pantry and more

Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 10:11 PM CDT
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ARENA, Wis. (WMTV) - Tina Amble has found her “home sweet home” inside the old school where she sent all three of her kids.

The Arena Community Elementary School shut down in 2018 due to consolidation, according to the Arena Historical Society. But since the property was acquired by developers in 2019, the building has reopened to the community.

An open house on Saturday showed the Arena School Apartments to the public. Classrooms had turned into 11 one-bedroom units as the hallway kept the look of orange and yellow cubbies.

“Students would put their boots or backpacks... and we’re like, ‘We’re just going to leave it as much like it was the last day school,’” Sean Crook of ACES Property Management, LLC, said.

Amble pointed to the hallway art above her door, explaining, “In fourth grade, I believe it was, all the kids painted the ceiling panel for art class. My daughter’s is the one right here.”

Crook said he noticed a lack of affordable rental options in the area. “We looked into what it was going to take to turn this building into something that would be useful for the community,” he said.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded a 250 thousand dollar grant for the project.

Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, said in August, “This project will not only bring new housing to Arena but will add to the quality of life and sense of community.”

Down the hall from the tenants, the historical society also found a home, a gift from the property owners. “It was sad to see the school close, of course,” the group’s president Steve Harrington said. “[But] it’s of use now. Our historical society has this area. People are satisfied.”

ACES also donated space to the Arena Food Pantry, and according to WEDC, Hardcore Tumbling and Gymnastics is leasing another part of the building.

“These guys took it upon themselves to recreate a space that incorporates the community,” Ray Porter, site manager of the food pantry, said.

He continued, “All of us, myself included, went to school here one time or another. The whole community is really aware of the building, and to keep the community part of it was really important.”

The hope, Crook said, is “to have this as a... center for the community for the next umpteen years.”

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