Woodland Hills School Board is expected to vote on Monday on whether to approve or reject the sale of the current administrative office building on Greensburg Pike and move of the staff to leased office space in Braddock.
The proposal has advocates on both sides of the issue, with some favoring TREK Development Group's proposal to build 48 units of senior housing on the Greensburg Pike and move the administrative staff to new office space on the site of the former UPMC Braddock hospital. Others prefer the idea of retaining the property for future use, finding space for the staff in one of the district's existing buildings, or considering other ideas for the site and staff.
In an effort to provide the public with background about the proposal, Substitute Superintendent Alan Johnson; William Gatti, owner of TREK; and Ken Doyno, a partner in the Pittsburgh architecture and urban design firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, spoke at Wednesday's meeting to shed light on the options.
The choices open to the district are:
- Staying in the current building.
- Selling the current building and moving to space in Braddock.
- Moving to space within one of the other school district properties.
- Not sell the property but move to the Braddock office space.
- Lease the Braddock space and give TREK the option to purchase the former Eastmont School site and pursue senior housing there.
"To stay at 2430 Greensburg Pike is an expensive proposition," Johnson said.
In proposing the idea of buying the administration building and providing leased space to the district in Braddock for state-of-the-art office space, TREK Development had to look at three main issues from three perspectives, according to Doyno—economics, social and physical requirements as they affect Woodland Hills, Braddock and Churchill.
After studying the issues and communities, Doyno said the results break down as follows:
- Economics—Woodland Hills needs different space for the administrative staff but wants to preserve capital for its educational facilities. Braddock needs to create conditions for people to invest in the community. Churchill needs to encourage maintenance and investment in its properties.
- Social—Woodland Hills should be a model of communities working together to serve children. Braddock has to look at serving the needs of its residents. Churchill needs to meet the needs of its senior citizen population.
- Physical—The school district needs to be appealing to people looking for a place they want to live. Braddock has to look at what the borough wants its future to look like. Churchill needs more social/community gathering spaces.
Doyno said the district indicated the current building is too large and too expensive to operate. The move would downsize from a 24,000-square-foot building to 9,000 square feet of office space.
Among the positive aspects of the proposal are increasing tax revenues with new, taxable development; lowering operating costs; and that new development in both Braddock and Churchill would attract new development, including the former Westinghouse property located just across Greensburg Pike.
The district's concerns, Doyno said, are letting go of its assets and the affordability of the lease after five years.
"It's less money to move," TREK's Gatti said, citing 10-year cost projections.
According to Gatti, the cost to stay in the current administration building for the next 10 years without renovations would be $1,348,416. The lease cost to move would be $1,312,500. The annual school district tax revenue from the new development would be $676,059—and the development would also yield county and borough tax revenues. And the net, with savings and revenue, would be $711,976.
Gatti added that including the $675,000 sales price of the building on the table, the net benefit to the school district over the next 10 years would be $2,336,976. TREK would pick up the $700,000 cost to raze the building, clearing the way for construction of the 48 units of senior housing.
The proposed apartments would face Greensburg Pike. The complex would include a mix of market rate and income-restricted leases. Market-rate housing would be open to seniors regardless of income. The tax-credit housing would require residents to be 62 or older and make less than $32,500 a year.
"It is not Section 8 housing," Gatti clarified.
He said a second phase of construction would have the potential to add 16 more units and a life center to provide health services for tenants, enabling them to receive up to nursing-level care and stay in their own homes. A day center would serve other Churchill senior citizens.
Doyno said the complex would contain a public plaza and community space that could be used by Churchill residents. A new intersection located across Greensburg Pike from the entrance to the former Westinghouse complex would also provide better egress for the adjacent Pace School.
The office building in Braddock where the district might lease space would also be home to a MedExpress on the ground floor and another tenant, possibly a coffee shop or cafe, Doyno said. Woodland Hills would have the second floor.
In response to concerns about the district's transparency in handling the sale/move, Johnson and the other presenters put together a timeline of how the proposal developed:
- March 2011—District feasibility study shows costs of renovating administration building at about $4.1 million.
- September 2011—District commissions architects to develop design to move administrative offices to junior high. Costs of renovation and relocation could reach $1.8 million.
- September 2012—Board considers remaining at current building and using up to $4 million to renovate; abandoning and demolishing current building and moving to another location; and remaining at building and making only emergency and essential repairs.
- May 2012—Unrelated to issue, met with Braddock officials about Braddock Overlook Development and asked what role district could play, as is the case with the Carrie Furnace project. Suggestion made that new office building would be a good place for district office.
- July 2012—TREK met with district Planning Committee and board to offer a proposal for leasing the Braddock space.
- October and November 2012—TREK attends public meetings to discuss proposal with school board.
- November 2012—At board legislative meeting, board approves a non-binding letter of intent to sell administrative building for $600,000 and lease Braddock space for $150,000 a year.
- December 2012 and January 2013—TREK meets with Churchill Borough to discuss proposed senior housing.
To find out what residents had to say after the presentations, click here.