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Created on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:23 Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 11:23 Published on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:23 Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 2221
Just when it seemed plans for the former Schenley High School building were settled, things appear unsettled all over again.
Less than a week after opening the four bids it received Jan.18 to purchase the property, the school board voted to spend additional money to re-evaluate the building’s condition.
Board member Regina Holley said she was responding to an on-line petition with more than 1,000 signatures calling for an investigation of the school’s closing in 2008.
Subsequent engineering analyses indicated the asbestos problem is not as extensive as originally thought, and that the repair estimates for the building ranging from $64 million to more than $80 million were excessive.
“This is simply about getting some accurate numbers,” said board member Mark Brentley. “It’s not a waste of time.”
Holly said she wanted the numbers to see if the school could be reopened. However, there is no estimate on what the study would cost or how long it would take. She said she would like to reopen it as a school. Curiously, two of the bidders also submitted plans for schools.
Board member Jean Fink voted against the measure but said she understands it because a lot of board members either went there or had children who did.
“This is more than just the asbestos, the ventilation systems is shot, and you’d have to tear down the walls to replace it because of how they built it in 1913,” she said. “We don’t have the money to fix it, and even if we did, we don’t have the students to put there.”
Superintendent Linda Lane said she would put together a report based on existing data by Feb. 15. That would be a week after the district’s bid review committee recommends its preferred bidder for the sale, and 10 days before a scheduled public hearing on the sale. A final board vote on selling to the preferred bidder is scheduled for Feb. 27.
Two of those were from entities planning to open Charter Schools. The bid by Andy Warhol School of Visual and Performing Arts was proposed by a group of Schenley alumni led by tech entrepreneur Edward Alexi that does not want the historical legacy of Schenley High School lost.
“The foundation of a community or society at large has to be the education of its youth, and Schenley has been that foundation for over 90 years.” Alexei told Pittsburgh Urban Media prior to submitting his bid. The school would operate as a 501c3 non-profit. It would keep the auditorium, pool and gym. Their $4.1 million bid, however, was only the third highest of those submitted.
Kossman Development submitted a $4.6 million bid that would use almost half the building for a Providence Charter School to serve children with dyslexia with the remainder used as a for-profit student housing entity. It would also provide space for the Crossroads Foundation. It would use the existing gymnasium, but fill in the swimming pool. Plans for the auditorium were not specified. That bid, however, fell short also.
The $5.2 million high bid came from Philadelphia-based PMC Property Group, which specializes in residential refurbishing of older buildings. The bid calls for 175 Luxury apartments and a fitness center using the existing gym. Usage of the auditorium and pool space was not defined.
The lowest bid, $4 million, was submitted by developer Ralph A. Falbo Inc. , which like PMC would convert the school to apartments.. The bid calls for 1123 market-rate apartments and a fitness center, but would remove the gym and pool.
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