Old school sites cost city district thousands each year

School officials want to sell properties, wait for the right price.

Construction on new schools in the district finished years ago, but more than 37 acres of property where old schools had been are still owned by the district.

Seven of the sites are only land because the school buildings have been demolished.

The seven land parcels are appraised at a combined value of $602,500, district Treasurer Chris Mohr said.

The biggest cost is the former South High School, which costs $150,000 to $200,000 a year in utilities, Mohr said.

“We keep the heat on minimally because the building will deteriorate rapidly if we don’t,” Mohr said. “We feel we have an opportunity to sell that property if it is tenable.”

Mowing the other seven land parcels costs around $10,000 a year, Mohr said.

The money for maintenance of the properties comes from the district’s budget, Mohr said.

Mohr said the district has been lucky that the roof and structure of South have stayed intact so far.

“We’re at the short end of the curve with costs right now and that will only grow over time,” Mohr said. “Roofs give out eventually, and we’re going to have to pay to fix that.”

The district is employing the services of Midland Properties Realtor Pete Noonan to help sell the properties.

Noonan said school districts are required by law to try to sell property at a public auction before private sales.

In early December, three of Springfield’s unused properties went to auction, with bids being placed on each.

“They received bids that were far lower than the school at this time was willing to accept,” Noonan said.

Districts are not required to accept bids they believe are “insufficent or unacceptable” at auction, according to the OSBA.

The former Schaefer Middle School property on South Burnett Road received a $15,000 bid, the former Clark Middle School on West High Street received a $30,000 bid and a property on Wilson Avenue received a $500 bid, Noonan said.

The news isn’t all bad for the district though. Noonan said the former Highlands School property on West Perrin Avenue is under a conditional sale. If the buyers receive tax credit, they will purchase the property and develop it.

City Planning and Zoning Administrator Bryan Heck said the Woda Group has gone through the city Planning Board to seek rezoning for the property in order to create senior housing.

Heck said the group still needs to go through the City Commission, but the process is on hold until the group hears about its tax credit in mid-April.

Noonan said the former Grayhill School site on Montgomery Avenue also had a conditional sale, but the deal fell through when the buyers did not get the tax credit they needed.

Noonan said part of the problem in selling the district’s properties is they are commercial, and by nature, commercial property takes longer to sell.

Most of the properties are zoned “G” for green space or government use. Noonan said the properties would likely be sold subject to rezoning.

The South High School building has been on the market since 2009, and Noonan said Midland Properties has talked to anyone who has had an interest in the site.

Noonan said two parties went through the building in late December, but the 250,000 square-foot property and more than 16 acres of land is “daunting” for potential buyers.

“It’s really a significantly different situation than a 2.5-acre property that used to have an elementary school on it,” Noonan said.

Noonan added that the district is wary of the site’s historical importance and wants to be a “good steward” in selling the property.

South is considered a historical property in Springfield. The school was built in 1911 and housed Springfield High School until the district divided into two high schools in 1960. The district merged the high schools back into one school in 2008, leaving South.

Mohr said the district hopes to sell the properties soon so they can generate tax revenue for the district.

Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for OSBA, said it is difficult to generalize how school districts across the state handle land they own.

“It depends on the situation and what is right for that building, that time and that situation,” Reedy said. “Each district has to look at the individual piece of property and decide how it fits into their building use plan.”

One former property of the district is going through redevelopment after a sale. The former site of Roosevelt Middle School is being developed into retail and office space. A pediatric medical facility is scheduled to open there in August.

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