If approved by the Pittsburgh Board of Education, PMC/Schenley HSB Associates’ $5.2 million recommended bid for the former Schenley High School building will yield the district slightly less than when submitted.
That’s because in January, the board also approved spending $17,000 for two reassessments of the costs to reopen the building as a district school.
Schenley alumni have complained that $50-$80 million estimates given prior to the district closing the iconic building in 2008 were grossly inflated.
The lower of the new estimates, compiled by HHSDR and delivered Feb. 13, came in at just under $52 million.
Superintendent of Schools Linda Lane said though she shared the alumni’s’ love for the building, the new estimates still make reopening the building too costly. With district operating deficits on course to exhaust its $56 million reserve fund by 2015, Lane said adding another $50 million project was irresponsible.
“We must make decisions that consider the needs of the entire district,” she said.
During its Feb. 18 presentation to the board and neighbors, PMC Vice President and General Counsel Jerry Novick said their plan to convert the building into as many as 178 luxury apartments would cost $37 million.
Novick, however, suggested the actual number would be somewhat smaller because historic renovation requirements would prohibit narrowing the hallways. The exterior of the architecturally unique building would of course remain unchanged.
PMC’s plan also calls for 50 interior parking spaces to complement 75 spaces in the outdoor lot. The gymnasium would remain, possibly as a fitness center, and though the auditorium and swimming pool would not be touched, there are no definitive plans for their use.
Though groups of alumni have opposed the sale, with one group led by California software millionaire Edward Alexei even bidding to buy the building and reopen it as a charter school, the main concern voiced by neighbors was about the building being used for student housing.
Novick said while PMC could not legally prevent students from renting, “we never intended to do student housing here.”
Board member Regina Holley, who wants Schenley reopened as a district school and who asked for the new renovation estimates, said she doesn’t believe Novick, and that apartments would be rented to students.
“They are here to make money,” she said.
The board is scheduled to discuss the PMC’s bid at an agenda review meeting Feb. 20. The public will get to voice its opinions on the pending sale during the regular monthly public hearing five days later.
The board is scheduled to vote on PMC’s plan Feb. 27. However, it still maintains the option to reject all bids.
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