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School’s out forever for 23 Philadelphia public schools come June

5/27/2013 | Real Estate Blog

The Philadelphia School District has completed the difficult process of identifying which of its buildings will close its doors permanently over the summer. The process was fairly contentious, with residents and businesses fighting hard to keep their own neighborhoods’ school open. In the end, officials decided on 23 sites to shutter.

What now? The city had help with the next step in the process. A group of students from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design spent a few months studying the options and recently presented their findings to the district. The district is not bound to follow the report’s recommendations. However, one district official said that the students’ plan mirrors preliminary plans the district has been working on.

The report lays out a framework and a process that hinges on community involvement. The most important thing for the district to remember, though, is that leaving the buildings empty comes at a cost. The district can pay to leave the sites vacant, or it can pay for “a process that moves school buildings back into productive and often tax-paying reuse.”

The students recommend that the district include each site’s community in the decision-making process, and that the bulk of the project be completed in the next two years. These working groups will determine whether the district should sell the site or hold on to it, and, in turn, how to make the best use of the sites the district retains.

Schools would fall into one of three tiers based on the condition of the site itself and feedback from the working groups. The first tier would be buildings that are most likely to sell, the properties most appropriate for residential or commercial development. These sites would go through the district’s current disposition process.

The second and third tiers? We’ll get into those in our next post.

Source: NBC 10 Philadelphia, “Students Develop Model for Managing Closed School Buildings,” Jared Brey, May 24, 2013