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Monroeville

Gateway considers ending contract with firm hired to sell middle school

Dillon Carr
| Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, 12:51 p.m.
Gateway Middle School.
Gateway Middle School.

The Gateway school board is considering terminating its contract with a firm hired to sell Gateway Middle School.

The 26-acre property along Old William Penn Highway was listed for sale without an asking price in April . Since then, board members have said, there have been some inquiries but no formal offers.

“We’ve had little to no offers come through. I don’t think we’re going to see any action on this property right now,” board member Rick McIntyre said at a Nov. 20 meeting.

His colleague, director Val Warning, blamed potential developers’ disinterest on the board.

“It’s up to the board to put a price on that property,” Warning said during the meeting. “We have yet to do it, so I blame the board itself. … It’s just like going to the store and saying, ‘I want to buy that loaf of bread,’ and there’s no price on it.”

McIntyre made a motion to take the 26-acre property off the market. The motion failed, 5-4.

McIntyre then made a motion to terminate the district’s contract with 360 Group of Pittsburgh, which was retained to market the property in April 2017.

Art McAuley, with 360 Group, declined to comment for this story.

Between the time 360 Group was hired and the property was listed for sale, the school district appealed to Monroe­ville council to get the 26-acre property rezoned from residential to commercial to make it more valuable. The property has an assessed value of $13.4 million, according to Allegheny County tax records.

Monroeville denied Gateway’s request to rezone the property, despite a recommendation to approve the change from the municipality’s planning commission.

McIntyre wanted to terminate the contract because the district continues to pay the firm $2,500 a month without getting formal offers. The contract with 360 Group expires in September 2019.

“I don’t believe we are going to get a number that satisfies our needs to sell the building and do what we need to do for the reorganization of the district by September,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre’s motion to terminate the contract with 360 Group was tabled to give the board more time to discuss the issue.

Board members and the district administration have said the reason for selling the property is simple: maintaining the 63-year-old building is too costly. The same is true for Moss Side Middle School along Gateway Campus Boulevard.

Plans are under way to close Moss Side and possibly raze the building . Its 486 fifth- and sixth-graders would be moved to other buildings by the start of the 2019-20 school year.

As fewer students occupy district buildings due to a national trend in declining enrollment, administration wants to build a school that would combine grades six, seven and eight — which are now in Gateway Middle School and Moss Side Middle School.

The tentative plan, therefore, has been to use the proceeds earned from the sale of Gateway Middle School to demolish Moss Side and send its fifth-graders to district elementaries. The rest of the money would be used to build a new school for grades six, seven and eight.

However, the school board has not decided on any plan for housing the 500 seventh- and eighth-graders at Gateway Middle if it is closed.

School director Jack Bova said he would not sell Gateway Middle if it was up to him.

“It just does not make sense to me,” Bova said in an interview after the meeting, adding he understands the argument district administration has made that a new school would be more efficient over an extended period of time.

“But I’ve never seen that come to fruition,” he said. “If you see comparable schools, there’s not one cheaper than $40 million. We better be saving a lot on heat and electricity to earn that back for taxpayers.”

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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