An Open Letter Regarding the Proposed Sale of Property in Marine on St. Croix
An open letter to the Greater Saint Paul community:
On Tuesday, September 27, Wilder’s board of directors approved a purchase agreement from Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership to purchase 600 acres of property owned by Wilder in Marine on St. Croix. The property will be used to provide a community service in ways that preserve the land’s natural beauty and resources. Proceeds from the sale will fuel Wilder’s mission to support people across generations to be healthy, stable, and prosperous. This will be a significant funding source for Wilder programs, including early childhood education and childcare; mental health services; aging and caregiver services; housing support; and other services that support thousands of individuals each year.
River Grove: Marine Area Community School (River Grove) has a five-year lease agreement with Wilder for a portion of the property that is set to expire in June of 2023. Over the years the school has worked closely with Manitou Fund, a private foundation, to explore the potential of a purchase that would provide for the school’s permanent location on site.
In January of 2022, Wilder officials informed Manitou Fund that the property was available for purchase after a pending letter of intent did not move forward. In June 2022, Wilder informed Manitou Fund, Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership and River Grove that there were two parties interested in purchasing the property. Wilder shared the appraised value of the property with Manitou Fund and Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership. Later in June 2022, Wilder was presented with a letter of intent to purchase the property from Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership that met all criteria set forth, including preserving the land’s natural beauty and resources. That same week, Wilder leadership met with a Manitou Fund representative, who offered their verbal opinion on the value of the property that was significantly less than the appraised value. That opinion of value was not accompanied by a letter of intent or offer on the property from Manitou Fund.
Wilder staff presented the letter of intent from Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership and the information from the meeting with Manitou Fund to the board of directors in July. With no long-term agreement with River Grove in place after June 2023, and with no indication that the school, Manitou Fund or any other party was prepared to present a similar offer, Wilder signed the letter of intent and agreed to negotiate in good faith with Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership toward a sale within the next nine to 12 months. Wilder staff communicated this decision to Manitou Fund and River Grove on July 15—the day after Wilder’s board voted to approve the letter of intent. Subsequently, Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership submitted a purchase agreement and Wilder entered into active negotiations with them to establish the terms of that agreement.
Last week members of Wilder’s board began receiving letters from River Grove’s board of directors, in which they expressed surprise and disappointment about Wilder’s decision to proceed toward a sale agreement with Catholic Youth Partnership. These messages indicated that River Grove was not informed of Wilder’s decision and that Manitou Fund did not have an opportunity to present an offer. We were surprised to receive these communications based on our many years of open communication with River Grove and Manitou Fund.
On Saturday, September 24, Wilder received a purchase agreement from Manitou Fund. This offer came as Wilder and Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership were finalizing purchase agreement terms. Manitou Fund’s purchase agreement was the first time Wilder received a formal offer from any party other than Minnesota Catholic Partnership in the past year.
Our board approved the purchase agreement with Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership after careful consideration of all factors. We empathize with the concerns expressed by parents and administrators of River Grove. At the same time, we are confident that we have acted in good faith with all parties involved and will continue to do so. We know this sale will directly impact the lives of thousands of people through Wilder’s services as well as the youth that will be served by Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership.
Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership will connect with River Grove: Marine Area Community School and all tenants currently leasing space on the property to explore potential arrangements that could benefit all parties. We look forward to partnering with Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership and all other parties to close on the property within the year.
Armando Camacho, President and CEO
Judy Kishel, Chair, Board of Directors
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation