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Vacant schools could take on new community roles

3/3/2014 | Real Estate Blog

The School Reform Commission of the Philadelphia Public Schools is reportedly making headway in its effort to sell school properties. The district closed 23 school sites last summer (we wrote about this in our May 27, 2013, post). The current proposal involves the sale of just six schools.

District officials have identified four potential buyers for the properties. The deals involve one school each in Kingsessing, Cedar Park and Port Richmond, and a bloc of three sites in University City. If all goes as proposed, the district will bring in $35 million and net about $25 million on the sales.

According to the district, the buildings will be “repurposed” rather than demolished. The Kinsessing and Port Richmond sites would continue as schools. The proposal for the Cedar Park site is to convert the property into a mixed use commercial development with residential and retail space.

The three schools in University City represent the most ambitious of the plans. The buyer identified for the 14-acre site is Drexel University Development LLC, a joint venture between Drexel and Wexford Science & Technology LLC. The developer proposes to use some of the property for one or more schools and the remainder for residential, retail, lab and office space.

Drexel partners with a K-4 school that has more students than it can handle. The university would like to relocate that school to the University City site. Drexel may also add a middle school to serve the neighborhood.

Residents of the area need not be concerned that the university will house students on the property. The residential part of the plan does not include dorms, according to statements made by the developer at a recent community meeting. What the developer wants is to use the structures in a way that will maintain the character of the community while providing a safe place for pedestrians, a well-lit and well-integrated street presence. The community will drive the developer’s decisions, it seems, including the mix of retail.

The commission plans to vote on the proposals at its March 20 meeting. If the proposals are approved, the sales should close by the end of June.

Source: Daily News, “District names four finalists in sale of six closed properties,” Solomon Leach, Feb. 27, 2014