Woodland Hills school board OKs building sale, office move

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The Woodland Hills school board Monday night narrowly approved a vote to sell the district's administrative building in Churchill and lease new office space in part of the redevelopment of the former UPMC Braddock site.

The board initially planned to vote on the building's sale on Jan. 16 but postponed the vote several times because of community outcry over the plans. Woodland Hills has considered various plans for its administrative offices since 2005, but all have fallen through.

The 25,000-square-foot building at 2430 Greensburg Pike is slated to be sold to Trek Development for $625,000. Trek plans to demolish the building and erect at least 48 units of housing for seniors. The earliest the district would move the offices to Braddock would be in the 2013-14 school year.

The board must take another vote in the 45 days following this one on the final option and lease agreements.

Churchill residents expressed concerns that a portion of the senior housing would be for seniors who make less than $32,500 a year. Churchill Councilmen Ray Jurewicz and Lawrence Lepidi said an independent financial analysis should have been completed before the district agreed to sell the building.

Supporters of the sale and the move to Braddock noted that both properties would now be on the tax rolls. The move also would mean Woodland Hills would have a presence in Braddock for the first time since the 1981 court-ordered merger that created the district.

"We're looking for big changes," Braddock Councilman Robert Parker told the board before the vote. "You guys moving to Braddock would be a huge change."

Board member Marilyn Messina stepped to the podium during the public comment period and expressed support for the sale as both an Edgewood resident and as a 26-year board member.

She said the property taxes collected from both properties would be a boon for the district and noted the benefit of having a district presence in Braddock.

"This is solving a problem [and offering a] solution we've been looking for since 2005," she said.

Board member Fred Kuhn noted that while the administrative building is in deplorable condition, he thinks it's important to keep the property to have space to develop the high school campus in the future.

Board member Colleen Filiak said that having 25 administrators in 25,000 square feet of office space is excessive, and the district currently has more seats available in classrooms than it has students, meaning the district should be thinking about consolidating, not expanding.

"I feel this is a good deal for the district," she said.

The board voted 5-4 to approve the sale and to lease 9,000 square feet of office space in Braddock for $125,000 a year for three years, all of which is contingent on the upcoming second vote.

Ms. Messina, Ms. Filiak, Robert Clanagan, Brian Estocin and Jeff Hanchett voted yes. Mr. Kuhn, Tara Reis, Robert Tomasic and Regis Driscoll dissented.

education - neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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