Woodland Hills school board cancels plan for new offices

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The Woodland Hills school board has scrapped a plan to sell the district's administrative building in Churchill and lease new office space in Braddock.

Woodland Hills has considered various plans for its aging, dilapidated administrative offices since 2005, but none have materialized.

Last week, history repeated itself.

Since the fall, the board, developers and residents have discussed the plan at several meetings before the school board and Churchill and Braddock councils.

The school board in January approved the sale and the move to Braddock after postponing the vote several times because of community opposition to the plans. It was set to finalize a sales agreement with Trek Development for the sale of the property at 2430 Greensburg Pike. On March 13, however, the board voted 5-4 to reject the plan.

Board members Fred Kuhn, Tara Reis, Bob Tomasic, Regis Driscoll and Brian Estocin voted against the plan. Colleen Filiak, Jeff Hanchett, Marilyn Messina and Robert Clanagan voted for it.

The 25,000-square-foot administration building was to be sold to Trek for $625,000. Trek planned to demolish the building and erect at least 48 units of housing for seniors. The administration offices would have moved to a 9,000-square-foot leased space in a redevelopment on the site of the former UPMC Braddock hospital.

More than 20 people spoke in favor of the plan last week, including real estate agents, a pastor, a nun, elected officials from Braddock and residents of a Trek senior housing development in Penn Hills. Fewer than five stood before the board to reiterate their displeasure with the plan.

In past meetings, Churchill residents expressed concerns that a portion of the senior housing would be for seniors whose income is below a specific amount, and they lamented the lack of an independent financial analysis.

Mr. Tomasic noted that Pace School, a private school that serves special needs students and shares a driveway with the administrative building, sent a letter to the school board offering $700,000 for the building, more than Trek's offer.

Woodland Hills business manager Joyce Sullivan said she believes the sale of the building to Trek and the move to Braddock would be fiscally prudent for the district.

Supporters of the sale and the move to Braddock noted that, if the plan was approved, both properties would have been placed on the tax rolls. Woodland Hills also would have had a presence in Braddock for the first time since the 1981 court-ordered merger that created the district.

Before the vote, Braddock resident Adam Schaible asked the board to finalize the deal.

"I'm not a big fan of the past. I'm focused on the future," he said.

education - neigh_east

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


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