Since Schenley High School closed amid vocal community and alumni objections in 2008, the Pittsburgh Public School District had a single $1 million offer for the historic building. That’s what it cost to build in 1916.
On Oct. 8, Fourth River Development, acting as the district’s agent, issued a Request for Proposals to prospective buyers/developers across the country that sets a minimum $4 million net price for the building.
|HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY—The 96-year-old architecturally unique Schenley High School building that closed at the end of the 2007 school year is now on the block for a $4 million minimum price tag.
“Aside from the swimming pool addition, the bones and character of the building has to be restored,” said Fourth River spokesman Pat Morosetti. “We’re being responsible. Anyone looking at this RFP will know what has to be in their proposals. Most of them will have had experience with historic properties in the past, so I don’t expect any surprises.”
The 120-page RFP is exceptionally detailed, including 16 appendices on everything from bidder financial and indemnity requirements and multiple environmental reports to timetables and the complete Community Vision Plan for the building.
It outlines seven primary goals the district and community require bidders to meet. Some of these include achieving a high-quality development that enhances the surrounding community, capitalizes on the building’s historic nature, providing community and district benefits such as new tax revenue and secondary financial impacts, and creating opportunities for Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises.
The time table for the bid process is ambitious and, could in an ideal situation result in work starting in late spring or early summer. Initial interested parties may tour the building Nov. 27. A required pre-proposal meeting will be held the following day, any questions will be submitted and answers posted by Dec. 7. Proposals are due Jan 18 and will be posted Jan. 22.
Morosetti said he expects a solid response.
“I think we’ll get a lot of interest, with several firms ready to take a serious shot,” he said. “Regionally probably five-10. Nationally it’s harder to gage. It’s a unique structure. “
When the district voted to close Schenley as part of its “right sizing” realignment program to deal with the overcapacity resulting from population loss, its representatives argued the amount of asbestos in the building, plus deferred maintenance on heating, plumbing etc. made renovating the building impossibly expensive, especially given budget shortfalls.
Last year, however, another environmental evaluation revealed that the asbestos issue was not as severe as initially claimed. Both evaluations are in the RFP, which also requires the successful bidder to indemnify the district for any future health-related claims renovation workers might make. The building is being sold “as is.”
Though it is possible that an institution like Pitt or UPMC could want the building for lab, educational or office space, the most likely scenario would be a high-end residential conversion.
“I wouldn’t take anything off the table. It’s going to be an open public process and we’re looking at all proposals,” Morosetti said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how creative people are. The practical next use would be residential but if there’s something out of the box that benefits the community, who knows?”
The RFP is available for download at http://www.frd.us.com/pghschools/schenley.htm.
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