Pittsburgh school board sells Columbus to nonprofit for $930,000

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The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools tonight voted 8-1 to sell for $930,000 the Columbus building, which will continue to be used by Propel Northside charter school.

Tonight’‍s agenda included both extending the lease to enable Propel to use the building for two more years and selling the building to School Facility Development Inc., which is a nonprofit that was formed to purchase, develop and lease property to charter schools. So far, only Propel has used School Facility Development.

In November, the board turned down an offer of $915,000 to sell Columbus to be used by Propel. Its asking price is listed as $930,000.

Board member Mark Brentley Sr., the only member to vote against the sale, strongly opposed the sale, saying it wasn't a good deal. He believes Propel receives preferential treatment.

School board member Sylvia Wilson said she was voting for the sale but called it distasteful.

Board member Regina Holley said she wouldn't have voted for the school if she had been on the board at that time and said she wasn't happy about the sale. But she said there are students in the building. "I want the children who are there to have a building that is worthy of them," she said.

The district closed Columbus in 2006. Propel opened its school as a tenant in 2011. Last fall, its rent was $10,000 per month. As a tenant, Propel has been responsible for minor maintenance, but the district has been responsible for major maintenance.

If the building were leased, Ron Joseph, district chief operations officer, said the building would need a new roof and boiler during the term of the lease.

District debt on the building is about $660,000 and will be paid from the proceeds.

Built in 1965, Columbus has about 99,155 square feet and is on nearly four acres on Buena Vista Street.

Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, sent a letter to the board, favoring the sale, saying it will ensure the availability of educational options.

Ms. Wilson said she does not think that all of the North Side community favors the sale.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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