District names four finalists in sale of six closed properties

Drexel University Development LLC wants to buy the closed University City High School building.
Drexel University Development LLC wants to buy the closed University City High School building.
Posted: February 28, 2014

FOUR FINALISTS have emerged in the potential sale of six recently closed school properties, district officials announced yesterday.

The finalists are: Mastery Charter for Anna Shaw Middle School in Kingsessing; Orens Bros. Real Estate Inc. for Alexander Wilson Elementary in Cedar Park; Maritime Academy Charter School for Stephen Douglas High School in Port Richmond; and Drexel University Development LLC (a joint venture between Drexel and Wexford Science & Technology LLC) for University City High, Charles Drew Elementary and the Walnut Center, all in University City.

Under the proposals, Douglas and Shaw would remain as schools. Wilson would be converted to a mixed use of residential and retail space, while the University City cluster would feature a mix of residential, retail, lab, office and educational space.

The district said it is negotiating agreements of sale with the potential buyers. Pending those agreements, the deals will be voted on by the School Reform Commission March 20.

The total value of the offers for the six properties is roughly $35 million, the district said. After closing fees and bond payments on the buildings, the net revenue would be close to $25 million. The money would not address the current estimated $14 million deficit, though, because the revenue has already been factored into the budget.

"We are pleased to announce the selection of these potential buyers that plan to repurpose the school buildings that have become vacant since closing their doors," Superintendent William Hite said in a statement.

The district is also considering the sale of the former William Harrison Elementary School in North Philadelphia, which closed in June 2012. The target closing date for the sale of all seven properties is June 30.

The Drexel proposal, which would encompass 14 acres, will generate the most revenue. As part of its plans, the university wants to move Samuel Powel School, a K-4 school that Drexel partners with and has exceeded capacity, to the site. It has also discussed adding a neighborhood middle school.

The residential component would not include dorms, according to Bob Francis, Drexel's vice president of facilities, who spoke to community members last night at a meeting hosted by the district.

"The character of the residential needs to fit Lancaster and Powelton, in terms of responding to the streetscape and [making] it consistent with what Powelton's residential needs are," Francis said.

He said the commercial side of the development would be toward Market Street and be similar to the school's Science Center, and added that the retail space would be small and reflective of the community's needs.

"We want to bring the site to the street to provide a safe and pedestrian environment, a well-lit environment," he said. "So it's all those planning principals you've heard us talk about on our properties."


On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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