Panel recommends PMC Property Group be awarded bid for Schenley High School sale
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:12 p.m.
A panel says Pittsburgh Public Schools should give the storied former Schenley High School new life as a luxury apartment building.
The seven-member district panel, which included district and neighborhood representatives and members of a development firm, on Wednesday recommended the school board accept a $5.2 million bid from PMC Property Development Group, a Philadelphia firm that is developing properties in Pittsburgh. The North Oakland school closed in 2008 because the board determined it would be too expensive to renovate and remove asbestos.
The company said it would build about 175 luxury apartments.
PMC owns Kenmawr Apartments in Shadyside, 201 Stanwix in Downtown, the Penn Garrison Lofts in the Cultural District and apartment buildings in Philadelphia and in six other states.
“I'm very concerned we'll lose children even more than we are now, if we're not careful about how we close buildings, open buildings,” said board member Regina Holley, who said she would vote against the sale.
Board member Joel “Skip” McCrea said the PMC proposal looks good, but he is withholding judgment until after a public hearing Feb. 25.
“It's going to put the building on the tax roll, and we'll generate money in wage taxes from people moving in,” he said.
The most visible push to buy Schenley came from alumni who wanted to open a private or charter high school to emphasize visual, audio and digital arts education. The group bid $4.1 million.
“I'm sure it will be a very nice place to live, but it won't shape lives,” said San Francisco entrepreneur Edward Alexei, a 1988 graduate of Schenley who led the alumni effort.
Ralph Falbo, who graduated from Schenley in 1955, bid $4 million to convert the structure into a high-end apartment building. Falbo said he hopes the prevailing bidder maintains the historic character of the building.
“Having graduated from there, I have a soft spot for it. You win some. You lose some,” Falbo said.
Kossman Development Co., which represents Provident Charter Schools, bid $4.6 million to open a charter school.
“We have other options we're looking into,” said Curtis Kossman, president of the company.
The review panel based its recommendation on such factors as price, historic preservation, time frame for development and the ability to succeed, said Pat Morosetti, commercial agent for Fourth River Development, which handled the bidding.
A week after receiving the bids, the board voted to obtain two new estimates for fixing the building, partly because of community opposition to the sale. Superintendent Linda Lane told the board she will have estimates by Feb. 15. Otherwise, the board is scheduled to award the bid Feb. 27.
Built in 1916 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Schenley produced notable graduates who include artist Andy Warhol, Nobel Prize winner Clifford Shull and basketball star Maurice Lucas.
PMC is scheduled to make a public presentation on its proposal at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 in Room A of the Administration Building in Oakland.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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