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Sell in Churchill? Move to Braddock? Or Something Else for Woodland Hills?

Woodland Hills School Board will resume the discussion about and then vote on the possible sale of the administration building in Churchill and moving offices to Braddock on Monday night at 7 p.m.

Woodland Hills School Board will have the weekend to mull over two presentations, and a number of citizen comments and questions, before reconvening Monday, Jan. 28, to vote on whether to sell the district administrative office building in Churchill and move to leased space in Braddock.

(Those interesting in speaking at the meeting, see information at end of story.)

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 for about $150,000 a year.

But Wednesday night, TREK put some other offers on the table. One would be to remove the condition of selling the administration building and just move the district offices to the leased space in Braddock. Another offer that William Gatti, owner of Trek, offered was for the district to keep the Churchill property, lease the Braddock space and give TREK an option to purchase the former site of Eastmont School on Jefferson Heights Road so the developer could pursue senior housing there.

Another player surfaced near the end of the meeting. Karen Lamoureux, chief executive officer of Pace School, which abuts the administration building, said that a previous offer to purchase the building for $500,000, or 20 percent over the assessed value of the property, was still on the table. School board Vice President Marilyn Messina had noted earlier in the meeting that Pace had withdrawn its offer—and she stated she would investigate why the board was told that if Pace was still interested.

About 100 people attended Wednesday's meeting and many voiced support for keeping the Churchill property while others contended the move to Braddock would benefit the district.

Dolores Patterson of Churchill pointed to a conflict of interest in having the developer involved in both the sale and the lease agreements. She said the property's value is best determined by competitive bidding.

Steve Karas of Forest Hills and George Ratliff of Churchill both suggested using some of the space available in district buildings rather than leasing new space for the administrative staff.

Other residents offered suggestions ranging from floating a bond issue to cover the cost of renovations for the current building to getting an independent analysis of the figures provided by TREK.

Still others encouraged the district to take part in helping rebuild Braddock by relocating there.

Adam Schaible, a Braddock resident, pointed to all the activity taking place in Braddock. He asked the board, "Would you like to join us in the revitalization and get in on the ground floor?"

Board member Robert Clanagan pointed to accessibility issues that Braddock parents have in getting to Churchill. The new building would enable them to walk to the district offices or take a bus from neighboring communities.

Board member Bob Tomasic said he is not in favor of selling any property because it might be needed in the future. Tara Reis, board member, questioned how the move might benefit the district's students and the future cost of leasing space.

"In five years, how are we going to pay the rent?" she asked. "Lay off teachers and support staff?"

The board decided to recess the meeting and reconvene at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, 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 by 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25.

Friday on Patch: A look at TREK's proposal and how the district's interest in the Braddock office space came about.

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JustMe January 24, 2013 at 03:22 PM
1) " In five years, how are we going to pay the rent?" Good question, and the answer better NOT be to raise taxes, or furlough staff. 2) Does the district have an obligation to rebuild Braddock? What about the other neighborhoods in the district? 3) Wouldn't we generate top dollar if we solicited bids for the building? I agree that a conflict of interest is perceived with TREK buying the building and leasing space back to the district -- this gives TREK too much power. It appears that many valid questions and issues have been raised and warrant further discussion. The Board should not feel pressured to make a decision by Monday. We're supposed to be belt-tightening and reducing spending -- let's not forget.
Adam Schaible January 24, 2013 at 03:30 PM
1. I don't know if you attended last night's meeting, but the sale of the current admin building would cover the cost of the first five years. And after that, rent of approximately $700k for the next bundle of five years. Which is still cheaper than the estimated $4.2 million to repair the current building. Savings ahoy! 2. Obligation to rebuild? No. Opportunity to move into a fresh new site customized to meet the boards need? Yes. Are other neighborhoods offering this? Plus, there's the benefit of making the school board more accessible to challenged communities, to help the children who need it most. 3. Pace made an offer last night -- $500k, or at least $100k less than Trek's offer. Of course, if you look at the timeline, with public discussion on this for over six months, I don't know why others haven't made offers. Perhaps nobody else cares. But this isn't some shadowy cabal trying to force you into visiting Braddock. It's just good sense -- having a modern administration space in Braddock for ~$700k for the next decade compared to an estimated $4.2 million to repair the current building, as estimated by another independent firm. As an aside, why weren't you and residents of Churchill this concerned while the current administration building was falling into its current state?
Paul Gamrat January 24, 2013 at 04:19 PM
I attended the meeting last night and I got the feeling that most of the residents do not have a problem with relocating the admisistrative ofices. I think the objection was selling that prime property for $625. That amount won't come close to aiding the districts money porblems. Amazing how Trek had plans B and C ready for community approval. In my opinion Trek knows that is a steal of a deal for them and in an ideal location. Personally I did not get a good feeling about their presentation. I would again urge the board to proced very cautiously and listen to the residents who voiced their opposition to this proposal.
LHughes January 24, 2013 at 04:42 PM
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LHughes January 24, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Adam, simply it seems you want this for Braddock. Thats a valid point for you a new person to the commonwealth and the country who owns property in Braddock and is looking to cash in on redevelopment. If there is so much going on in Braddock, if this property is so sought after why isnt it being shown to others. The available money goes away next month right? The $3,000,000 the Federal government gave the county? In short order, Trek will build a $6,000,000 property and only have to invest 500k. In 10 years they will own it free and clear. The reason no commercial business will do this is they know a bad deal when they see one. Seems like the WH residents dont want it. Good luck.
Adam Schaible January 24, 2013 at 05:54 PM
L, Thank you for the misassumptions as to my history (my family's been living here since before there was a commonwealth, better than 51% of my life's been in the US, and I don't own property in Braddock). But this isn't about me. Or Braddock, really, as the people from Churchill haven't had much to say about Braddock, just like so many others around here. It seems they're just upset by the idea of having senior living in their community. Egads! I'm a taxpayer in the area. One who's concerned about the idea of spending millions to repair an old building when there are other, better options. Especially when I consider how long it'll be before this school district consolidates into the county (a trend I've seen most places I live; why pay for so much redundancy?). What's the point of $4.2 million being spent to repair a building for another 10, 15 years versus a third of that for, say, 15 years in a new building. But do, please, offer me citations for the numbers and hypotheticals you're putting out. I'd love to read them. Cheers!
Kai Hoke January 24, 2013 at 07:15 PM
I did not go to last nights meeting but I was suprised to read that the only offer on the table is from TREK and that Pace School withdrew their offer. I know for a fact that this is not true. Actually, Pace School's offer was rejected from the school board last summer. Just seems like something isn't quiet right! I guess I'm questioning the boards transparency!
Sue T January 24, 2013 at 08:48 PM
I agree with you Paul. It doesn't make sense to me to sell the property for the ofter, First off, it is near the high school and the property may be needed by WHSD for some other purposed in the future; even if the school board relocates now. It just appears that WH is being pushed into a decision by TREK that has not been fully thought out or researched. I'm also not clear on how this became a people of Braddock versus Churchill issue as suggested by Adam. I for one, and I know at least one other commentor in this thread concerned about the finances of this deal do not live in either borough. There are, what 12 bourghs in WHSD and all residents should be considered both financially and for accessability.
LHughes January 25, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Adam, My family has been in the commonwealth a lot less but then I do own property in a neighboring boor to Braddock. Your 4 million dollar numbers come from Trek, probably as a friend of them or of Mayor Feddermen. You were seen talking to them both. I was at the meeting and your feelings werent hard to read. You have an interest in the district moving and that's it. So many people do not and the people of Churchill who shoulder the largest amount of the tax base in the district deserve a say. A big one. The numbers put forth at the meeting were smoke and mirrors. The glaring obvious point that Trek glossed over was that moving, although actual moving costs were not included, would cost the district around 1.3 million over 10 yrs and staying would be the same. The "do-nothing" scenario? Except 1 thing.... in ten years the district would still own the property on Greensburgh Pike. A woman whose name I can't remember, mentioned on the TV broadcast of the last meeting that the property had 2000 hits on the web from all over the world. Then sell it to them. Sounds like a sellers market to me, the only place in the USA where that's so is in Braddock. Trek has NO Signed lease from the Urgi-Care place and needs one.
Adam Schaible January 26, 2013 at 05:45 AM
L, My $4.2 million estimate comes from the outside consultants, hired prior to Trek's offers to purchase the land. I don't know how that isn't clear, as the assistant superintendent explained at this week's meeting. Agree or not, but don't muddle where the math comes from. Of course, I'm still waiting to see your alternate figures. As for Braddock v. Churchill, I still find it odd that Churchill showed up in force to argue against the sale of the administration building, as opposed to Braddock, North Braddock, Swissvale, Edgewood, Braddock Hills, or any of the other boroughs. To try to present this as anything other than Churchill residents being upset is disingenuous and not entirely true. Perhaps Churchill only showed up because they're the only ones with access to the admin building. Hrm. To consider later. But that does NOT mean Churchill has some greater say than the rest of the district, nor have you offered any other more fiscally sound alternatives, excepting "do nothing." I don't know who saw me speaking with Trek, as I haven't, so that's another misassumption (of which you seem dearly fond), though I admit to admiring John (as I said as much during my address to the school board). That doesn't mean I'm incapable of doing math. Or if it does, I should return my MBA to my favorite alma mater. Cheers to you, mate, and here's hoping you still offer actual plans, figures, and honesty.
LHughes January 27, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Adam, applause to your MBA and your alma mater. Maybe you should use it to secure another tenant to the property in Braddock, I hear it's the place to be.
LHughes January 27, 2013 at 02:20 PM
You should have paid more attention to the speakers and less time admiring Mayor John because a member of No Braddock council spoke and was disgusted with the idea. She wasn't claiming that she had or any of her residents had a problem getting the the meeting. I also saw 3 members of my beloved Rankin council there to listen and hear the presentation. Rankin doesn't think its viable. hmmm let's put a pin in that point for now and move on. You have not addressed the truth that Trek will get $6,000,000 to build the building and only have 500k invested of their own. That's in those numbers too. Read the proposal, put your ongoing "Bromance" with John aside. roughly 130,000 a year over the next 10 years to live with the PROPERTY AND BUILDING THE DISTRICT ALREADY OWNS. Or trade the property and building for 5 years of overpaying for office space.
LHughes January 27, 2013 at 02:20 PM
I have an idea your MBA brain can wrap itself around. As I am sure you own your home free and clear, you give me your home and I will build you a brand new state or the art apartment where you can live for 5 years. After 5 years you can pay above market rent to stay or walk away. Thats a horrible deal if you were you. Its worse when you are talking about a non profit org, like a school, who won't be making any more $ five years from now. I know you'll say that Trek is helping Woodland Hills put 2 properties back on the tax rolls but its really transferring debt from one credit card to another. A lady from the Woodland Hills school board said it best, "Its not good for the district because we are trading an asset for a liability."
LHughes January 27, 2013 at 02:21 PM
sorry to all for the 3 posts but the site wouldnt let me post it all at once.
LHughes February 01, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Steve, where is the "Braddock Mayor is hunting joggers" story?
Jesse Garboden February 15, 2013 at 01:34 AM
Braddock is a perfect community to invest in property is cheap. If you can get multiple blocks to tear down and start from scratch. Churchill is a first rate community and Braddock is a second rate like Swissvale.
Jo Ellen Welsh February 17, 2013 at 12:18 AM
It bothers me deeply to read the bickering on this new feed, borough pitted against borough. Aren't we all Woodland Hills? Why is no one looking at what is best for the School District of Woodland Hills...insteak of the borough of Churchill or the borough of Braddock? Trek's numbers are not smoke and mirrors, they are factual!! I as a tax paying resident of Swissvale am in favor of this sale and move. The Woodland Hills School District, students, teachers, administrators, residents/tax payers would all benefit!

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