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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 School board Vice President Marilyn Messina had noted earlier in the meeting that Pace had withdrawn its offer—and she stated she would investigate why the board was told that if Pace was still interested.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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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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