Pittsburgh Public Schools opens bids for the former Schenley High

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Pittsburgh Public Schools today received four bids from companies wanting to buy, rehabilitate and re-use the former Pittsburgh Schenley High School in Oakland.

The sealed bids for this historic building were opened this afternoon at board headquarters in Oakland. The bidders were required to offer at least $4 million -- enough to cover the debt on the building.

The bidders are: PMC Property Group, $5.2 million; AWSVPA/Edward Alexei, $4.1 million; Ralph A. Falbo Inc., $4 million; and Kossman Development Co., authorized agent for Provident Charter School, $4.6 million.

Mr. Alexei is with a group of Schenley alumni who would like to reopen Schenley as the Andy Warhol School of Visual and Performing Arts.

Curtis Kossman, president of Kossman Development Co., said its proposal would include a charter school for dyslexic students as well as private housing for college students.

Mr. Falbo said his firm's plan calls for rental apartments.

A review committee is expected to make its recommendation Feb. 6. A board vote is planned for Feb. 27.

PMC could not be reached immediately for comment but made a lower unsuccessful bid on the property previously.

The opening involved simply the reading of the names and dollar amount. The bids themselves are expected to be posted on the Internet on Tuesday.

The packets were not available for public inspection today.

While the board authorized marketing the building and receiving bids, any sale requires a board vote.

Even as bids were being received, some Schenley supporters still push for the district to re-open the school, which closed in 2008.

There are more than 1,000 signers of an online petition at change.org calling for an investigation of why Schenley was closed. At the time, district officials said renovation would be too costly, including resolving an asbestos problem.

In addition to the minimum bid, the request for proposal set other criteria for consideration while not limiting a decision to those criteria. The criteria include the quality of the proposed construction, the compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood, the meeting of historical rehabilitation standards, and the bidder's capacity and experience.

The criteria also include the benefits to the district and local government agencies as well as the community.

City Controller Michael Lamb, a candidate for mayor, today sent Pittsburgh Public Schools officials an email urging them to think twice about selling the building.

In the email, sent to school board members and Superintendent Linda Lane, Mr. Lamb said the district "should not only take its time with this decision, but also review information that has been made available since the decision to close Schenley to determine the cost effectiveness and impact on student achievement of that closure.

"Decisions about school facilities should be made with the best information available and it is clear that new information regarding the costs of maintaining Schenley as a school has become available. That information may verify that closing Schenley was the right decision for the Board. But that information may also suggest that keeping Schenley as a school is more cost efficient than current plans to rehabilitate and improve other PPS facilities."

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Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. Joe Smydo contributed. First Published January 18, 2013 7:30 PM


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