Monday, June 16, 2008

My Schenley Answer

In re: this post from Monsieur Briem.

The long term problem that exists for Schenley HS is summarized as follows: damned if you do, damned if you don't.

The asbestos issues, as Chris points out, is there "whether you tear down Schenley or not." Indeed, there are a whole slew of people over at Air Quality Control at the Health Department that will be closely monitoring any repairs, remediations, or demolitions which occur at the site. This does not come cheap. Renovation of the building itself may be more time consuming and difficult (thereby more costly) than just throwing through a wrecking ball, but in either case its going to be cheap. [I'd said it could easily cost as much to knock the building down (without asbestos) as it would cost to remove the asbestos alone.]

Now, with that in mind, if the School District decides that it wants to sell the building, the value is as follows:

Value without asbestos - Cost of asbestos = Total Value of Schenley HS
... More or less.

Any developer who is looking to rehabilitate the structure, do a quick calculation and figure out exactly the revenue that he expects to get out of the building, what the maximum loan term mortgage he can support, and back into how much he should be willing to purchase the building for.

To give cost comparisons, the South Hills High School renovation is $20 Million... and my guess is that there was plenty of public aid to making that work. I can only assume that Schenley will be at least that much, if down privately... meaning "on the cheap."

Of course, one of the problems for the District is that the longer that Schenley sits vacant, the more likely there will be long term mothballing costs (heating, security, etc.), which will slowly eat away at the BoE's budget anyway. Indeed, let us not forget that apparently many of the problems at Schenley were self inflicted, that is, poorly thought out facilities management which caused moisture, heating, and mold problems.

Given recent fluctuations in the real estate market, there is no guarantee that either a high sales price or a low price for asbestos remediation can be maintained.

Ultimately, the BoE will probably just sell the property for $1 like it has tried to do with so many of its vacant buildings.

And, who knows, it may even suffer the glorious fate of the erstwhile Syria Mosque.


zak822 said...

I know it's late to comment on this, but I have to say that the asbestos problem didn't just grow there last month.

I don't think the board has properly analyzed this matter. If asbestos is really been the problem the board asserts, why where kids attending classes there? If it's that kind of problem, the board should be thrown out on its collective ear and replaced with people interested in protecting students and staff.

If it's not that serious a problem, then remediate it and keep the building. The social costs of moving the students are going to be astounding, and the finacial costs of closing the school don't look to be any bargin. And that's not even adding in the costs of expanding other facilties to handle the large number of Schenley students.

O said...

Problem is, asbestos isn't a problem unless it's disturbed. Schenley, unfortunately, needs to be repaired (partially because of deferred maintenance issues, partially to update the building). Repairing the building means the asbestos will be disturb.