Phoenixville School Board plans to sell property of closed school

PHOENIXVILLE – The question of what to do with the Phoenixville Kindergarten Closed Center and the more than seven acres of land it sits on has become a matter of growing public interest.

The matter will again be the subject of public debate at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Phoenixville Area High School auditorium, when a public forum on the matter takes place.

The Phoenixville Kindergarten Center closed in 2017. (Evan Brandt – MediaNews Group)

The one-story building, often referred to as Second Avenue School, opened in 1958. It closed in July 2017 after the district’s brand new early learning center opened on Pothouse Road.

Since then, the question of what to do with the property has been discussed, a discussion that drew nearly 20 comments from the public at the October 18 school board meeting.

All of these speakers urged the district to try and preserve the property somehow, rather than selling it to real estate developers who have already made a few offers for the plot. The Borough of Phoenixville is also in the running, which has made a bid of $ 1.8 million for the property, which spans 7.4 acres.

The property on which the Phoenixville Kindergarten Center sits is 7.4 and includes fields, a playground, and woodlands along the Schuylkill River. (Evan Brandt – MediaNews Group)

However, the borough’s offer would take the longest to materialize because it takes 36 months to obtain enough subsidies to pay for the purchase.

Phoenixville Borough Director E. Jean Krack said the Borough’s proposal was not yet fully formed, but the initial idea “is to create some kind of learning center on Borough activities – we treat drinking water and wastewater, manage rainwater and waste and recycling. “

Buying the property would also ensure “that we don’t alter the look and feel of their borough and this neighborhood,” he said. It would also keep property out of the role of property tax.

The most lucrative offer comes from Toll Brothers, a developer who is offering $ 3.9 million for the property and has indicated it will use it to build townhouses, according to a presentation to the school board on October 18. by Superintendent Alan Fegley.

Another developer, Rockwell, is offering $ 3.77 million and is reportedly building townhouses as well. According to Fegley’s presentation, these two proposals would add about 20 children to district classrooms and could provide $ 500,000 to $ 800,000 in annual tax revenue once developed.

And a fourth offer for the property comes from Erin Development, which is offering $ 1,720,000.

It was pointed out that the district purchased a 30-acre plot off Hares Hill Road for $ 3.5 million on which it intends to build a new East Pikeland elementary school and that the money from the sale of the old kindergarten could be used to offset part of this cost.

But if speakers at the October 18 meeting are any indication, public sentiment is in favor of preventing further development of the property, whether through the borough’s offer or otherwise. .

Meagan Connelly addressed the school board on October 18. (Image of screenshot)

“This is a major decision for a great property,” Meagan Connelly told the board. “Imagine a new education center nestled in a green space near the river. Imagine a new library equipped for 21st century learning, research and entertainment. Imagine a huge community garden, with greenhouses and year-round food, nutrition and education programs.

“Once the land goes into private hands, the public loses control and that’s what we want to avoid,” said David Lasker, who heads the Phoenixville Green Team.

“We have so much development going on, so much high density housing going on. It would really be an asset if we could take that land and do something that the community could benefit from, ”Chris Colliquea told the school board.

Rachel Pine addresses the school board on October 18th. (Image of screenshot)

“We have a really nice little neighborhood there,” said Rachel Pine. “We have families with children, families with dogs, children who cycle in the streets and play in the streets. And we already have a traffic problem coming from their neighborhood that shouldn’t be there. Suddenly a large number of townhouses move in there, and if each of them has a few cars, imagine another 100 to 150 cars on the streets. You can hardly get in and out of Phoenixville like it is right now.

Jennifer Dewer is also concerned about the increase in traffic. “This is already a major step forward,” she told the board of directors. “So adding a lot of other townhouses doesn’t sound appealing to me,” adding “I’m also concerned about the pricing of people out of what was once an affordable community.”

Board member Jeesely Soto agreed, noting that none of the developers offering to buy the land offer affordable housing. She said she supports the borough’s idea of ​​turning the building into an education center, saying it could expand STEM opportunities for students.

Brian Cleary told the board that he lives two blocks from the site and said, “I think it should be owned by the city and developed for the benefit of the people.”

Kavin McCarthy addresses the school board on October 18. (Image of screenshot)

Kevin McCarthy has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and his children have attended Kindergarten Center.

“You have an opportunity. If you sell the thing for real money the money will be gone in the blink of an eye and decades later you will say I wish I had done something good for the community, ”McCarthy said. “You look at a field of townhouses, how many people say, ‘God, I’m so glad they put that there? Let’s do the right thing.

Heather Sheldon told the board that finances aren’t the only consideration in this decision. “It’s not a financial decision, it’s a moral decision,” she said.

Board member Christopher Caltagirone said the borough’s offer arrived in September and was “kind of a last minute thing”.

He said, “We are trying to do what is best for the district on many fronts, not just financially. We understand the importance of this property. However, he added, “When you look at the numbers, unless the borough can devote more revenue to it. I don’t see that as a serious offer.

Board member Jerry Weiss said the borough had “no skin in the game” with an offer that called on board to wait three years for them to get grants. “If they don’t get the grants, we’re back to where we started,” Weiss said.

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