Former schools prove difficult to market

The sale of vacant school district buildings has had many low points in Warren County, with only a few sales. Currently, there are two buildings on the market, with three more that will possibly join the list next year.

The Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry managed to sell the former Pittsfield Elementary School last summer, after years of looking for a buyer.

Jim Decker, WCCBI executive director said, “They can be a challenge, for sure. Like any specialized building, they work for what they were designed for.”

He said that re-designing school buildings for residential use takes so much retrofitting for electrical and especially plumbing. “It’s almost a perfect storm,” he added.

Decker said that bringing a building up to code can also be very expensive. He said that the doors at Pittsfield were too small for handicapped access, and when you take brick and block construction into acount, enlarging the doors would be a large undertaking.

Allen Sowers, an agent with Howard Hanna Real Estate is a specialist with commercial and industrial transactions. He noted, that by law, selling school buildings must be done by bid and can’t be handled by a real estate agent.

He noted, however that schools located in residentially zoned areas have limitations on any future uses.

Someone who wanted to change a school into residences would have to take into account the lack of population to rent or lease apartments.

Sowers agreed with Decker about the difficulties in remodeling brick buildings, and added that if a school was built before 1978, there will be issues with asbestos.

However, he said, “Most are in a pretty decent condition. South Street is the best of the lot.”