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Second estimate shows Schenley renovations near $60M

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 3:33 p.m.

A second look at needed renovations in the former Schenley High School shows Pittsburgh Public Schools still cannot afford to fix up the building, district officials said on Friday.

One estimate showed renovations would cost more than $53 million, and another estimate came in at $59.5 million, Superintendent Linda Lane's office said.

In 2008, when the district recommended closing the building, renovations were estimated at between $50 million and $86.9 million.

“While we too love the beautiful Schenley facility and wish we could afford the renovations necessary to maintain the landmark building, we must balance the need to resolve a very concerning financial future in the context of our need to accelerate the academic achievement of all students,” Lane said.

Developer PMC/Schenley HSB Associates last month submitted the highest bid of $5.2 million to buy the building. Because some community groups opposed the sale, school board members told Lane to get two additional estimates as to how much renovations, including removal of plaster and asbestos when necessary and minimal configuration of walls, would cost.

A 2009 study said the closed school would require more than $1.1 million for asbestos removal.

In the latest round of estimates, HHSDR Architects and Engineers projected asbestos removal to cost $2.8 million. Astorino architecture and engineering firm set the cost at nearly $2.5 million.

Both Pittsburgh firms said about 20 percent of the classrooms were too small under state guidelines and cited extensive renovations for plumbing, electrical, heating and other systems.

School board member Mark A. Brentley Sr. said he had not seen the report until reporters called him on Friday, and that district staff should have discussed the reports with board members first.

“It's improper, inappropriate. It's unprofessional and borderline propaganda,” said Brentley, a laborer with Pittsburgh Public Works.

“The district needs the building and can use the building. It's a wonderful building for our students,” he said.

The district emailed and faxed copies of the reports to school board members on Thursday, district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

Other school board members did not return phone messages seeking comment on Friday. The board expects to vote Feb. 27 on whether to sell Schenley.

The developer, which plans luxury apartments in the building, will host a public meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in district offices in Oakland.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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