UPDATED: Jan. 23 Meeting Set to Discuss Selling WH Administration Building

Opinions are divided on whether to retain the Greensburg Pike building or sell it to a developer and move administrators to new, leased offices in Braddock.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the location of next week's meeting and information about residents speaking on the issue.

Woodland Hills School Board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, to discuss a proposal to sell the administration building in Churchill and move district administrators to new, leased offices in Braddock.

The meeting will be held in the Woodland Hills High School auditorium. To register to speak, call and/or email Tomeka Billingsley at 412-731-1300, ext. 0124 or billto@whsd.net. This is now being billed as a special legislative meeting where the board has the ability to vote on the sale and move to Braddock.

The board decided to postpone voting on the sale Wednesday night after hearing a wide difference of opinion among both residents and school board members—and finding there was misinformation circulating about the proposal.

TREK Development Group of Pittsburgh has offered to buy the administration building at 2430 Greensburg Pike for $625,000. The group would raze the former Churchill Elementary School building and construct a senior citizen apartment building with about 48 units.

TREK is also offering to lease office space to the school district in a new building being constructed on the site of the former UPMC Braddock Hospital. In a letter to the board dated Jan. 15, TREK estimated the total of savings and revenue to the school district over the next 10 years would be $2,036,976.

Currently, the district has no presence in the Braddock community.

Though a motion to approve a sales agreement with TREK was on Wednesday's agenda, school board President Regis Driscoll noted that board members did not yet have the agreement in front of them.

Board members were split on whether to move ahead with the sale. A motion to retain the building was rejected by a 5-3 vote.

Board member Bob Tomasic said the building, which is adjacent to the high school campus, should be kept for future use by the district. Board member Tara Reis said the building is an asset while renting space is a liability. Holding on to the building will save the district from trying to figure out how to pay rent on office space five years from now, she said.

Board member Fred Kuhn said he wanted more information available for the public—and board members Marilyn Messina and Colleen Filiak expressed concerns about the misinformation circulating about the sale.

Messina continued that she is concerned about future revenue for the district—and said that the district will not be getting more money from the state. She pointed out mold issues and leaks in the administration building.

Messina also cautioned the board that their decision on this issue could "divide this district."

Dolores Patterson, a former Churchill Area School Board member, expressed concern about a conflict of interest if the board sells to TREK and then leases from the developer. Wilkins Township Board of Commissioners President Sylvia Martinelli, a member of the district's Ad Hoc Committee, said it was a waste of committee members' time to reject their recommendation to retain the building.

But the plan got support from two Mon Valley Initiative representatives, along with two Braddock officials.

"Businesses, investors and developers from around the country are interested in Braddock," said Tina Doose, Braddock Council president.

She said locating the administrative offices there to a state-of-the-art building would "speak volumes to the community." Mayor John Fetterman added that the offices would be directly across from the police department, offering good security.

"Please, we're asking for you to believe in Braddock," Fetterman said.

Check back with Patch for more details about the proposed sale prior to Wednesday's meeting.

What do you think about selling the administration building and the district leasing office space in Braddock? Let us know in the comments section.


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Patrick Costello January 17, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Let's see, we own the building and the land its on, why don't we sell it, and move to a new building and pay for rent, moving expenses, and perhaps furnishings instead. We can just go ahead and eliminate another class or two, nobody will be the wiser. Plus it is so much easier to get to Braddock than to Greensburg Pike. Sounds like a great idea to me.
Steve Karas January 17, 2013 at 04:40 PM
I have no problem moving the Admin to Braddock. I do have a problem with incurring expenses in a district that has seen cuts to EDUCATION. If you could receive a life time free lease in TREK in Braddock in exchange for the property on GB Pike, and there is no cost increase, and TREK furnishes it and does the build out including IT products, then fine. How can you justify $15 a square foot for space that is currently free? Districts are made on the quality of education you provide, not how new or shiny your administrative spaces are. I can't believe there is no space for ADMIN anywhere in any district building.
JustMe January 17, 2013 at 05:28 PM
I hope the Board goes back to the drawing board and runs the numbers again. Seems like there are many unanswered questions. Moving costs $$$$, rents increase on an annual basis, etc. I'd say "STAY PUT" until more information is forthcoming.
Daniel Zajdel January 17, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Moving to the WHSD Administration to Braddock does NOT serve to benefit the best interests of the School District. Politically, it might seem a viable proposal; however, the benefits of it clearly advantage TREK who not only would get a long-term paying tenant in its new facility in Braddock, but it would ALSO gain the marketing prestige of an address in Churchill with a wonderful view, conveniently located off the Parkway East. On the mere face of it, this is a clear conflict of interest which provides the School District with NO significant advantage whatsoever. The logistics of the current Administrative Building could not be better for the School District. The building's roof is relatively new; so, if it is in need of interior upgrades, new commerical grade windows and doors, modern security equipment, or cosmetic improvements, then focus on those isssues which benefit the administrative facility are far less expensive. Community development by private-sector risk-takers is very admirable, but this issue is about, "What best serves the interests of the WHSD?" The proposal up for debate overwhelmingly serves the interests of the developer, NOT the School District. The developer is free to develop available property in Braddock for a new senior citizen apartment buildiing. The Administrative Offices should remain on campus, and the WHSD should reject such proposals which clearly are not to their advantage as a school district.
John Mozer January 17, 2013 at 08:17 PM
It is difficult to believe that the TREK proposal would save the WHSD over 2M$ in 10 years. The school board should have an independent party do a complete financial assessment of this proposal before it makes a final decision.
Steve Karas January 17, 2013 at 10:20 PM
So why not just build the proposed G-Burg pike development in Braddock?
Adam Schaible January 18, 2013 at 12:40 AM
1. We already have a senior's home in Braddock. It's lovely! Has a great view out over the town and the valley, is convenient to access, and plays a wonderful role in offering support to our elderly. Opening a second is just nonsensical. 2. I'm not sure how many of you have checked the price of property in Braddock lately, but it's cheap. Seriously cheap. So rent isn't likely to be an issue. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if rental here's cheaper than maintaining a dilapidated building elsewhere. Especially in a brand new complex in an up and coming neighborhood. And really? People are worried about the moving cost? Ha. Get a large Uhaul or two for the weekend and be done with it. 3. Speaking of, buildings are never "free." Taxes, utilities, repairs... Not all of these apply equally to a building owned by the government, but to call it free is simply incorrect. Just like a bad building isn't an asset; it can be just as much of a liability (or moreso!) than a rented building. 4. And it's not as if all members of the school board were playing evenly last night. Why, one member -- Mr. Tomasic, if I recall -- said the only routes into Braddock were through North Braddock. Not only completely untrue (I can drive from Braddock into Rankin, Turtle Creek, and North Braddock), it makes me question his motives that he'd bother misrepresenting Braddock in such manner.
JustMe January 18, 2013 at 03:33 PM
According to the Allegheny County Real Estate Website, the Greensburg Pike building is valued at $2,764,100 -- letting go of this building for $625,000 is insane. TREK is the only winner here, and I can't see how this sale could come close to benefiting the taxpayers of this community. Take a look at the photo above -- does that look a building that needs to come down? The School Board should post the proposal, and let us see the breakdown on how TREK is going to "save" us over $2 million over the next 10 years. This proposal definitely needs more review.
Steve Karas January 18, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Pat O'Neil January 18, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Putting aside the financials for a second. What are the logistics of the Braddock location? Is there enough parking to handle the type of traffic for school board meetings or any other larger gatherings? Don't get your panties in a bunch about me asking this, but Is it a safe location?
Adam Schaible January 19, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Dear TwoFists, I'm a Braddock resident and yes, this place is safe. I've lived in Glasgow, UK; Nairobi, Kenya; and all over the US and Braddock feels more secure than most places. It's small enough that people know each other and John and our police have cracked down on smaller crimes. As for parking, there's ample parking. We're able to handle art exhibitions, the symphony, and events like Tapped with ease. Dear RPD, Do you mean our Allegheny County? The same Allegheny County that's been taken to court and been found to be overvaluing property? Just want to make sure.
Bill January 19, 2013 at 04:15 PM
The property shown on this link is not the property in question. this is the PACE School directly behind the property in question. Further, tax-exempt properties are never valued properly by the assessor. They pay no taxes so there is no reason to fight the original assessments. The only way to properly determine value is a certified commercial appraisal. The commercial appraisal determined this property to be worth $625,000.
Tara Reis January 19, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Residents are now encouraged to register to speak. This meeting is now being billed as a Special Legislative Meeting where the Board has the ability to vote on the sale to Trek and move to Braddock. To register, call and/or email Tomeka Billingsley at 412-731-1300, ext. 0124 or billto@whsd.net. Feel free to copy your email request to reista@whsd.net to insure delivery. Please leave your name, address and phone number. Register by Tuesday at 4:00pm.
Mary January 20, 2013 at 05:24 AM
I am all for the administration having decent, up-to-date office and meeting space but I don't think they should move. The area now has a nice, campus feel to it. That would change if apartments were built there. I also think it's short-sighted to sell and rent. Can they raze it and build something better suited to their needs? Being so close to the parkway does mean easy access for many Woodland Hills residents.
Zandy Dudiak January 20, 2013 at 05:39 AM
Thanks for the update, Tara.
JustMe January 21, 2013 at 02:54 PM
My mistake -- this link was Pace school. Irregardless, how many other proposals has the board considered? Is it the best decision to consider this one and only offer? Were bids solicited? Still too many unanswered questions -- hopefully more information will be available on Wednesday night.
Sue T January 21, 2013 at 08:44 PM
I agree with this. I don't know how the board can make an educated decision without and independet review of TREKs proposal/financial assessment.
Adam Schaible January 22, 2013 at 04:36 AM
As explained at last week's meeting -- I was there -- it was mentioned that there are a handful of ways to proceed for the sale of the property. The method currently being used, where Trek approached the school board and made an offer, was at Trek's initiative. It wasn't an open bidding process because if the vote continues for the sale of the building and land, the proceedings go before a judge with an open session for further public commentary. In short, from what I've seen, nothing's being done behind the public's back or in an illegal manner. Hope that helps!
Paul Gamrat January 23, 2013 at 02:07 PM
If the President of the Braddock Council wants to "speak volumes of the community" then Braddock should intice TREK to build their 48 unit building in Braddock. This move could attract a grocery store and other businesses which the senior citizens could walk to. There are no stores within walking distance of this proposed building. Then we could really "believe in Braddock". The senior citizens would be safe located near the Braddock Police Station. In my opinion Braddock needs the development more that the small area in Churchill. I remember the days when Braddock was a busy business community with stores all along the Avenue. I still travel through Braddock and can see that there is plenty of land to for TREK to develope. I also believe that TREK has their own personal motives for buying the Greensburg Pike porperty as another comment suggested. That property belongs to the the Woodland Hills School District and should stay in our hands for our future use. That $625,000 won't go very far. TREK will get that back after a few years of renting to the administration. I urge our school board members to make a wise decisioin based on future use and growth of our district. Sell that building and land and we will be searching for land in the future and the price will be much higher. The building on Greensburg Pike could easily become "state of the art" . That should not be a draw. My vote is to keep the building and the land!
Paul Gamrat January 23, 2013 at 04:23 PM
...sorry entice.
LHughes February 01, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Where is the "Braddock Mayor is hunting joggers" story?
LHughes February 01, 2013 at 01:24 PM
Why is patch hiding this story?


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