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Schenley High School sale sparks board debate

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 11:47 p.m.

Schenley High School has stood closed, quiet and shuttered in Oakland for nearly five years, its halls vacant. But now it is causing a ruckus again.

“I'm against the sale,” said Tom Sumpter, a Pittsburgh Public Schools board member. “The (minimum bid) was too low. At some later point in time, who's to say what resources may become available to put it back online?”

Sumpter spoke at the board meeting on Wednesday night as members debated a resolution to sell the building and the wisdom in originally closing it in 2008.

“It's very disconcerting to me that we're turning over a building into high-end, luxury apartments rather than a school,” said board member Regina Holley, who said she would oppose selling the building to anyone who would make it something besides a school.

Board member Mark Brentley Sr., who voted against closing the school five years ago, said he will introduce a motion next week to table the sale.

On Feb. 6, a review panel consisting of representatives of the district, nearby communities and Fourth River Development, which is handling the sale of closed buildings in the district, recommended that the board accept a $5.2 million bid from PMC/Schenley HSB Associates, more than $1 million higher than the minimum bid.

PMC owns the Kenmawr Apartments in Shadyside, 201 Stanwix in Downtown, the Penn Garrison Lofts in the Cultural District and apartment buildings in Philadelphia and six other states.

PMC wants to convert Schenley into about 175 luxury apartments. PMC plans to add a fitness center in the building, keep the basketball gym and determine later what to do with the swimming pool and auditorium.

The board voted in 2008 to close the school because it would have cost more than $75 million to remove asbestos, fix mechanical systems and make other repairs to the building.

Last week the district released two new estimates on the work that the school board requested last month: HHSDR Architects and Engineers put the cost at nearly $53.2 million, and Astorino put it at more than $59.4 million.

Superintendent Linda Lane has said the district cannot afford to fix the building.

The board will hold a public hearing on Schenley at 6 p.m. Monday, and a vote on the bid is scheduled for Feb. 27.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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