You are here

District 2 Schools Repurposing - WEA Vacant School Steering Committee

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 "grant.gittlen@pittsburghpa.gov" 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 "grant.gittlen@pittsburghpa.gov" 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,

Name
Address
Phone
Email (optional)


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.

Common Questions:

  • What is the West End Alliance (WEA)? The West End Alliance is a new Community Development Corporation (CDC) started to cover the entire city District 2 (mapped above) at the request of our Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith. Like the Elliott Community Group, but a level above, the purpose of this organization is to provide a bridge between the City Council and our District 2 residents (and various community groups), and to use that learning to help offer and guide plans to improve housing, development, and environment in our district. The organization was also created to be a transparent and responsible vehicle for managing and distributing city and URA funds, with special consideration of questionable funding practices in the past in our district.
  • What is the West End Alliance (WEA) Vacant Schools Steering Committee? Councilwoman Kail-Smith identified active District 2 residents she felt would follow through a lengthy process and communicate as best they could with their communities, individuals who had shown up at many previous community meetings, and formed her WEA "Vacant Schools Steering Committee" headed by WEA president Richard Butler. She then coordinated funding though the City Council and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to research into ways the city could encourage vacant school re-purposing that would benefit our region in a planned and coordinated way.
  • Is the WEA Vacant Schools Steering Committee determining who purchases the buildings? No, the sellers are the School Board, and Holy Innocents, and they alone will accept or deny buyers. However, the sellers are interested in finding buyers that serve the communities, are wanted by the communities, and are able to show the ability to purchase and manage the properties. The Steering Committee has the same goals as the sellers, and strives to help add value in gaining knowledge about the process, resources, and community needs, then merging these with community desires, and sharing all that with the community and sellers.
  • How much for the properties? Each of the School Board properties is listed at http://www.frd.us.com/pghschools/pghschoolproperties.htm with two priced at $250,000 and Thaddeus Stevens expected at about the same, while the price for Holy Innocents has not been made public. Keep in mind that the cost to re-purpose and maintain any of these schools, even for the most minimal changes, will be many times the sales amount. And so the actual sale prices (at least of the public schools) are only important to clarify that they are not the major cost. The sellers recognize this as well and will be very concerned with any buyer showing they can follow through well beyond the sale before they consider a sale.
  • Is a reform school going in to one of these? No. Currently there is no consensus of any specific use being supported. However, more importantly, community feedback has included identifying uses that are not desired, as well as those desired, and uses for things like drug or behavior reform centers have been ruled out as not being wanted by the community. Since the sellers are highly interested in meeting community need, it is extremely unlikely that anything of this sort would be able to convince the sellers. To this end, the WEA Vacant Schools Steering Committee sole purpose is to help make sure the sellers are properly informed about what the community wants, and what buyers propose. It is true a number of interested partied have come forward and presented ideas. And, while new proposals may appear, so far nothing even resembling this sort has been heard, and the committee is clear in understanding that the community would not be in support if it did.

History:

  • July 2014 - Springboard Design Hired: after a year of meetings considering the schools, imagining uses, learning about the School Board process, and vetting of 5 design firms, all coordinated by the Design Center, the Vacant School Steering Committee agreed with funding Springboard Design to examine the whole Distract 2 wide picture and generate a report.
  • Jan 2015 - Springboard Design Report: Read the WEA Site Analysis Summary Report that was presented to the public on Jan 21 (advertised on Facebook). After a dozen meetings of the Vacant School Steering Committee and the general public in our District 2 neighborhoods, touring the neighborhoods and facilities, and considering viable uses, the Vacant School Steering Committee had reviewed a draft of the Springboard Design report. They then created a summary report which was presented at an open district wide meeting giving a high level overview of the process and findings, and soliciting feedback. Feedback is expected to be funneled back into the final Springboard Design report, which will then be used by the Vacant School Steering Committee and possible candidate purchasers to obtain letters of support form community groups and present to the School Board. The meeting was at 6:30pm on Jan 21, at the West End Senior Center 80 Wabash St. 15220, and is lasted about an hour and a half.

Links:

 

Comments

Avery & Ashoorian Lawyers is a boutique law firm with offices in Melville who have been providing legal advice to individual’s and businesses for over 45 years.lawyers fremantle

Is a reform school going in to one of these? No. Currently there is no consensus of any specific use being supported. However, more importantly, community feedback has included identifying uses that are not desired, as well as those desired, and uses for things like drug or behavior reform centers have been ruled out as not being wanted by the community. Have a look at Singapore Holiday Package which is worth visiting.

Add new comment