This page is not an official West End Alliance (WEA) or Pittsburgh City Council communication. It is the best attempt to faithfully share my experience and learning about this issue with our community as a Steering Committee member "Cris Mooney". Please credit any references from this page to me alone. That is: "Cris" said. - Cris Mooney, Elliott Resident.
Update 17-Dec-2015: The city is evaluating purchasing Thaddeus Stevens for use for police officer training, possible public safety classes, all in parallel rent space for artist (The Meter Room) usage. Since this is the most important issue in our neighborhood over the last few years, please consider writing to "firstname.lastname@example.org" expressing your opinions. Below we offer a sample letter in support that might send as is, or update with your ideas. If someone has an alternate point of view and would like to provide a sample letter please use Contact Us on the left and we'll be happy to share it here, but we've not heard any opposing opinions and don't have ideas ourselves to present an opposing sample letter. At present, as far as the Elliott Community group knows, no deals have been struck between any private party and the Pittsburgh school system for Thaddeus School, nor is our group aware of any other potential deals in the works.
Possible sample letter to "email@example.com" to get you started:
Dear Mr. Mayor:
As a resident of the neighborhood of Elliott, District 2, I am pleased to learn of the plans to possibly reuse the shuttered Stevens School building as a police officer training classroom. I am in overwhelming support of the plan and encourage you to move forward with the plan quickly.
In addition, I support the idea of moving the artist "John Ross and the Meterroom program" into the facility once the new comprehensive Public Safety Training Facility is constructed. The artist has purchased property in Elliott, displaying a sincere commitment to Elliott, and has become an integral part of our community.
Lastly, I want to share my support for the Public Safety Training Facility to be built or located in the District 2 area. Our neighborhood has experienced years of disinvestment. A commitment to open a facility of this magnitude in our area will demonstrate a true effort to include us in the tremendous amount of development occurring across the Pittsburgh region. Please make it a priority to locate the facility in District 2.
Thank you for giving serious consideration to all of these requests. As you know, albeit significant, the requests are not nearly comparable to the vast amount of public dollars allocated across Pittsburgh. It is beyond time to invest in the south-west of Pittsburgh.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to further support you in making these projects come to fruition,
Report: Click for WEA Site Analysis Summary Report
In mid 2013 District 2 Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith started an initiative to evaluate and hopefully guide re-purposing of vacant schools in our neighborhoods, which were mainly the result of substantial school board downsizing realignment starting in 2011. These schools are up for sale to private buyers, but our community has an obvious interest in who purchases these properties, and the sellers also hope to have qualified buyers that will both serve, and are wanted by, the communities. However, making sure this happens is not an easy task.
The four schools involved in this initiative are:
These schools are primarily owned/managed by the Pittsburgh School Board, which is independent from the City of Pittsburgh and our City Council, and they have a regimented process which must be satisfied before any actions are taken. In specific, they too are concerned with making sure that any re-purposing of these schools is done both with the community needs in mind, and in a sustainable way. Since verification that such criteria are met is a substantial effort, the School Board hired Fourth River Development to handle the sales. That group has assumed responsibility for vetting candidates who might purchase these properties, and evaluating the proposed usages to be sure they provide those neighborhood the best possible value are welcomed by the residents.
Holy Innocents is privately owned, but is logically part of school downsizing in our area, and of any District 2 wide school re-purposing considerations, and the owners are also interested in finding a buyer who will server they community as they do.
Councilwoman Kail-Smith saw potential District 2 value in these assets if re-purposed responsibly, and created and funded the West End Alliance's "Vacant Schools Steering Committee" to look into understanding these properties and the community needs, and then work with the best fit candidates that can be found to help present to the School Board. Such assistance will hopefully result in the best possible re-purposing of these assets for our communities. Councilwoman Kail-Smith selected the Design Center, which was successfully involved in improvements to the Pittsburgh Musical Theater in the West End, to manage the process, and handle the funding from the City Council and the URA.
The West End Alliance (WEA) Vacant Schools Steering Committee has no actual control over who purchases these buildings, since they belong to the School Board and the Holy Innocents Roman Catholic Parish. Instead, the groups purpose is to try and discover and support what seem to be the best candidates possible for our District 2 communities, which is also the goal of those selling the schools. The group only hopes to learn about the schools and possible buyers, gather community feedback, and help share that information with the sellers. And, at this point, the group has not heard from any public entity coming forth with interest in these schools - only private buyers.
Known Private Parties Interested in Properties:
Keep in mind that all potential buyers will have been informed right up front that they must work for the community, and this would limit offers before many might hear a thing. In this, it is public knowledge that the School Board strongly prefers selling the properties to parties that both appear beneficial to the surrounding community, and that the community expresses desire to have. Supporting this has been this WEA Vacant School Steering Committee, and The Design Center. The contracted sale managers at Fourth River Development are fully aware of all this, and thus will have informed any possible buyer of this right up front as well.