Our opinion: Selling buildings
The Warren County School District has had checkered success ridding itself of surplus buildings.
A very few sold fairly easily; others have languished for years.
Repurposing school buildings is a hit-and-miss proposition based on variables that are outside of the school district’s control.
First is location. Second is also location, and third…you guessed it.
One problem with repurposing elementary schools is they are usually located in residential neighborhoods, making their use for industry and commerce difficult, even if zoning is adjusted.
Even then, often the sales come slowly, if at all.
The former Pittsfield Elementary, located conveniently on Route 6, the county’s major east-west route and its intersection with Route 26, sat vacant for years before the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, which took the building on consignment, was able to market it to a go-kart business.
Jefferson Elementary at the corner of Third and Conewango Avenues in the city was to become a seminary, but after years of unfulfilled promise it was finally sold again to a local businessman who hasn’t yet revealed his plans, but has at least spruced the place up.
Now, in addition to Pleasant Township Elementary, which has been empty for several years, there are at least four others that are either now empty or will be by the time school begins again in the fall. The district seems to have its own repurposing in mind for Russell Elementary.
One or two of them have promise for commercial development, especially the former South Street Elementary/Early Learning Center, located on the Pennsylvania Avenue business corridor.
The rest could be more problematic.
May we suggest the school district work with the County Commissioners, the Chamber of Commerce, and other appropriate agencies to explore the idea of something similar to urban homesteading, where idle prominent properties are provided for little or no initial cost, but with the requirements that plans be approved by the district and the other local taxing bodies and they be redeveloped within a specified period of time.
No, the district doesn’t get rich on the sale, but the properties have a better chance of returning to the tax base more quickly.
Tax-exempt empty buildings benefit no one.