By Susan Bromley
– Belle Ann Elementary, Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School and a vacant parcel of land, all owned by the school district, are up for sale.
At their March 20 meeting, the school board approved by a 6-0 vote a contract with Plante Moran CRESA to seek buyers for the three properties.
“I have mixed emotions,” said District Superintendent Matt Outlaw. “On one side, it is very difficult to close buildings. We invest in these buildings, there is history in these buildings, but on the other side, this is a smart financial move for the district.”
The district will pay Plante Moran CRESA a flat fee of $35,000 to do “everything your realtor would typically do,” said Outlaw.
The company, which specializes in helping school districts shed unwanted properties, charges substantially less than the typical real estate agent, he added.
The school board expressed interest late last year in getting help from Plante Moran CRESA. At that time, under consideration was finding potential buyers for Belle Ann Elementary on Glass Road and a vacant Sherman Court property. Now joining the mix is the Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School, which will close at the end of this school year in a reconfiguration of buildings approved this year.
The closure of BFIS due to declining overall enrollment follows the closing of Belle Ann in 2013 for the same reason. The district is currently only at 50 percent capacity for all buildings, which also includes Oakwood and Harvey Swanson elementaries, which will house preschool and kindergarten through fifth grades in the fall, as well as Brandon Middle School, where sixth graders will join seventh and eighth graders, and Brandon High School, to remain unchanged with 9th through 12th grade students.
The district initially tried to sell the Sherman property in 2009, after Oakwood Elementary opened and preschoolers and alternative high school students from the Sherman Lifelong Learning Center were moved to H.T. Burt Elementary (part of the Harvey Swanson complex and which has also been partly vacant for several years). The property, initially listed at $600,000, had no takers, and the district was prepared to sell it for $147,000 to a buyer interested in establishing a residential facility for dementia patients, but the deal fell through due to restrictions on wastewater treatment. In 2013, as the district prepared to have the building demolished, the North Oakland Charter Academy sought to purchase the Sherman property for $100,000, but was denied by school officials, who cited the poor condition of the 50-year-old facility, as well as their own interests as a public school district. The demolition proceeded that fall.
The Belle Ann and Sherman properties were taken off the market, with Belle Ann only seeing use by a fitness group as district officials pondered what the best course of action would be while their financial woes and declining enrollment have continued.
Last year, voters turned down the district’s request for passage of a “Clean Water Millage” that sought to levy 2 mills for 2 years to raise $2.2 million for looming capital improvements, including a DEQ-mandated replacement of the wastewater treatment plant that services the middle school and high school, which has an estimated price tag of $1.5 million and must be completed by November 2019.
The sale of the school properties would be used for these capital improvements, said Outlaw, who expects to gain over $1 million for the properties, but had no concrete estimates of property worth.
Plante Moran CRESA will assess the properties and market them to investors, bringing all requests for proposal to district officials near the end of this school year. The district can accept or reject any proposal for any reason.
“We are not obligated to anything,” said Outlaw, adding he has already received several inquiries about the BFIS property, adjacent to M-15. “We are motivated, we have property we don’t need, but we have no intention of giving property away. We want to make sure there is value in the use of the property. We would like it to be something that is a positive for the community, maybe a senior citizen home or a store that might be able to provide more services— things that are a positive.”