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Pittsburgh Public Schools to get 2 new estimates for repairs at Schenley

Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
The former Schenley High School in Oakland.

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Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Some bidders on the former Schenley High School building in Oakland said on Thursday that they are taking a wait-and-see approach after the Pittsburgh school board once again said it would consider whether the century-old school should be renovated instead of sold.

The district received four bids last week, but on Wednesday the board voted 6-3 to obtain two new estimates for fixing the building, partly based on community opposition to the sale, board members said.

“(Pittsburgh schools) are the owner of the property. It's totally within their rights to do this. And so we'll see what comes out of it,” said Michael Polite, chief executive officer of Ralph A. Falbo Inc., Downtown.

The firm bid $4 million, planning to convert the building into 123 apartments.

Philadelphia-based PMC Property Group Inc. submitted the high bid of $5.2 million, planning luxury apartments.

“We are only a participant in the process, and we respect whatever way that process takes,” said Jerry Novick, PMC executive vice president and general counsel.

Six Schenley High alumni as a group bid $4.1 million, planning to establish a private or charter arts school named for city native Andy Warhol.

The group would welcome the building's remaining a public school, said member David Tinker.

“It would be great for the building to go back to a wonderful institution of learning,” he said.

Superintendent Linda Lane told the board that she will have estimates by Feb. 15. Otherwise, the board is scheduled to award a sale bid on Feb. 27. Schenley has been closed since 2008.

A 2009 report by Downtown-based Kimball Architecture said it would cost $1.1 million to remove asbestos from Schenley. A previous report stated it would cost $75 million to fix the building, including removing asbestos.

Opponents of selling the building have questioned the disparity in estimates.

Board members said a petition against the sale, bearing more than 1,000 signatures, and city Controller Michael Lamb's requesting a review of closing the building were among the factors prompting another change of course.

The district postponed an attempt to sell the building in 2011 while trying to find a community use for it.

In other action on Wednesday, the board took the equivalent of a “no” vote on a request by Propel Schools to open a K-8 charter school in the former St. Stephen School in Hazelwood.

Four board members voted in favor, four voted no, and one abstained.

Tory N. Parrish is a reporter for TribTotal Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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