Schenley alumni group wants to buy former high school, reopen it as digital arts learning center
A West Coast tech entrepreneur with Pittsburgh roots said on Friday he put together a group of investors and fellow Schenley High School alumni who will make a bid on the shuttered high school.
Edward Alexei, 42, a University of Pittsburgh graduate with fond memories of the high school, said his group wants to buy and renovate the building and reopen it as a private or charter high school with an emphasis on visual, audio and digital arts education.
Alexei said the group factored in the cost of purchasing and renovating the historic building and instituting a unique curriculum in the digital arts. He believes his group has a sustainable business model to operate a school with a track to higher education or employment in technology and entertainment industries.
“We are not seeking funding from the state, local or federal government. This project will be completely self-sustained,” he said.
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials will open bids for the school on Jan. 18. The district set a minimum bid of $4 million.
School board President Sharene Shealey said she learned of Alexei's plan through media reports. She was unaware of other bidders.
“This is a bid process, and if that's the bid the administration recommends, that's what it is,” she said.
The sale of Schenley and, later, 19 other vacant schools would offer the cash-starved district the opportunity to make millions of dollars. But it is reopening wounds.
This will be the second attempt to sell Schenley, which closed in 2008.
The district delayed an attempt in 2011 while it tried to find a community use for the enormous structure at North Bellefield Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Failing that, and after rejecting a bid to convert it to apartments, the board in September began soliciting new bids.
Alexei said his group was in Pittsburgh for a walk-through at the school on Nov. 27 and attended a question-and-answer session about it on Nov. 28.
Opponents of the sale believe the circumstances that led to the school's closing are suspect.
“You'll have a lot of controversy when the vote comes up. There are some of us who believe it shouldn't be sold, and we'll vote our conscience,” said board member Regina Holley, who in September voted against putting Schenley up for sale.
Holley, Mark Brentley Sr., Shealey and Tom Sumpter voted against the sale. Sherry Hazuda, Theresa Colaizzi, Jean Fink, Bill Isler and Floyd “Skip” McCrea voted for it.
Holley and Brentley signed an online petition that seeks an investigation into the process that led to the closing.
Cost of repairing the building and asbestos contamination were among reasons cited for the action.
The petition, which had 937 signatures this week, notes that a 2009 report by Kimball Architecture, Downtown, said only two of 476 samples of material from Schenley had asbestos of more than 1 percent.
Kimball said the cost of removing asbestos was nearly $1.1 million. Citing another report, a previous administration said it would have cost about $75 million to fix the building, including asbestos abatement.
District Solicitor Ira Weiss noted that in the end, Kimball sided with other consultants who recommended closure.
“Asbestos is only part of the issue,” Weiss said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defensive end Tuitt shifts into high gear
- Steelers’ Mitchell taking cautious approach about dealing with injuries
- Rossi: Pirates foolish to bet on Burnett return
- Strip District, Shadyside startups headed to White House
- Big-game hunting means navigating Third World country political systems
- Doctors to be given star ratings on UPMC site
- WVU to intensify workload amid shorter training camp
- Obama’s Clean Power plan doesn’t change much; opponents remain firm
- Technology helps VA Pittsburgh expand ability to serve veterans
- Inside the Steelers: Wide array of receiving options shine
- Members of North Huntingdon family attacked by rabid otter in Va.