Buying Here: West End schools


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A single-family home with 11 parking spaces and a gymnasium? No, it's not a mansion. It's the former Schaeffer School at 1235 Clairhaven St., Crafton Heights (MLS No. 998668).

The closed public school is one of 20 for sale in the city of Pittsburgh and one of three in the West End, all being marketed by Fourth River Development.

"This is far from a standard residential or commercial listing," said Pat Morosetti, sales and leasing agent for Fourth River Development.

Schaeffer is priced at $250,000, as is the former Sheraden School at 3128 Allendale St., Sheraden. The former Stevens School, 822 Crucible St., Elliott, does not have a price yet.

The schools have been marketed in groups based on perceived interest, Mr. Morosetti said. Schaeffer and Sheraden are part of a group with Gladstone School in Hazelwood, $250,000; Homewood School, $250,000; Horace Mann School in Marshall-Shadeland, $325,000; and Rogers School in Garfield, $275,000. Others with prices include Columbus in North Side, $930,000; and Burgwin in Hazelwood, $475,000, which sold Wednesday for its asking price.

Elliot at a glance

Size: 0.6 square miles

Population: 2,381

School district: Pittsburgh Public Schools (www.pghboe.net)

Enrollment: 24,849

Annual 2014 property taxes on a property assessed at $100,000: $2,062

City: $709 (7.09 mills)

School: $965 (9.65 mills)

County: $388* (4.73 mills)

History lesson: Named for early landowner Daniel Elliott, this tiny West End neighborhood originally was Chartiers Township farmland. Before vehicle access was eliminated in 2004, the West End Elliott Overlook, a small bluff overlooking the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers, was one of the most-visited sites in Allegheny County.

* Includes the Act 50 homestead Exclusion, which allows the owners of their primary reisdence to reduce the value of their assessment by $18,000.

-- Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

Schools for sale but without prices listed are Belmar, Beltzhoover, Bon Air, Fort Pitt, Madison, McNaugher, Murray, Northview and Rogers. Knoxville is listed as not available.

The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools voted Wednesday to sell Madison School in the Hill District to the Schenley Heights Community Development Program for $65,000.

Schaeffer is not a good candidate for industrial or retail uses because of its limited parking, Mr. Morosetti said.

"When you look at these schools, residential is usually the first thought on their repurposing."

Residential uses aren't limited to apartments or condominiums. They could also become senior housing or assisted-living facilities, Mr. Morosetti said. Offices, which are contingent on parking, and community centers are other possibilities,

"Don't forget a next use could be another school," he said.

Schaeffer School was built in 1960 on a 1-acre lot that borders city-owned Dunbar Playground, which contains a ballfield and basketball court and is not part of the sale.

The two-floor building has 26,780 square feet of usable space, including 11 classrooms, a gymnasium used as a cafetorium and a library. It closed in 2012. The utility costs for the last year it was open were $27,000.

With a quick glance, one can tell the building is in good condition. The floor tiles are intact, the windows are in good shape and there is no paint peeling. The two natural gas-fired boilers are in "immaculate" shape, according to Mr. Morosetti.

Unlike typical residential property listings, the schools can't be marketed using numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms. Potential buyers focus on the existing layout and how it can be reconfigured. One consideration is whether classrooms can be turned into separate living units. Rooms like libraries and auditoriums often don't easily translate into other uses, Mr. Morosetti said.

The building has two "penetrations" in the form of stairwells that run through both floors. The term is used for features that create "nonusable square footage," Mr. Morosetti said.

"These spaces are important when you think about how to redevelop the properties because it's wasted yet needed space," he said.

Fourth River Development, which provides details on each of the schools at www.frd.us.com/pghschools/pghschoolproperties.htm, has received hundreds of calls about the schools. Schenley and McCleary schools have been sold and Morningside is under agreement.

"It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work, a lot of follow-up calls," Mr. Morosetti said. "We're always putting it in front of people to make sure they understand what we have."

Mr. Morosetti encourages potential buyers to reach out to local community groups to introduce themselves and their ideas. In return, communities are welcome to communicate to the district their thoughts on the proposed buyer and use.

"The district board members are very focused on making sure that these schools are being sold for responsible uses that are very conducive to the community in which they're located," he said.

Prospective buyers can contact Mr. Morosetti at morosetti@frd.us.com.

Sara Payne: spayne@post-gazette.com.


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