Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Originally Published: June 28, 2017 6:01 a.m.
The Prescott Unified School District Governing Board on Tuesday night voted to accept a new offer to buy the district offices at 146 S. Granite St. and to revise the contract of sale on a previous contract to sell the former Miller Valley Elementary School at 900 Iron Springs Road.
Three members of the board, two at the meeting and one participating by phone, met for about a half hour in a closed-door session to talk over the offers and then returned to open session for a final vote. Members Scott Hicks and Maureen Erickson were absent.
SteepleRock Ventures LLC in Paradise Valley made an offer to buy the district office building that will be held in escrow until the expected closing date of Sept. 15. Ironline Partners in Phoenix, a development firm that already spent $1 million to buy the district’s former Dexter Elementary School that is now leased to Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, is expected to now close on that sale on July 25.
The sale price for the buildings and other information related to the purchases is to remain confidential until the closing dates.
But officials were clearly elated that both of these buildings have bona fide offers, and have high expectations that the buildings will both be sold within the next couple months.
The Governing Board last year approved a contract to sell all three properties to Ironline, but after an escrow period Ironline backed away in March from the purchase of the district offices located just off the Whiskey Row retail center.
Board President Greg Mengarelli said members are “very pleased” that negotiations for the sale of the these two buildings is drawing near with reputable buyers who after legally allowed escrow periods will finalize these deals at a price and with terms the board has deemed acceptable.
“I think the public will be equally pleased with getting these sold,” said Mengarelli of the properties that required community approval prior to then being marketed for sale. “We’re glad we’ll be able to move on to bigger and better things, focusing on education and not buildings.”
Though Howard was unable to talk dollars, he, too, said he is “excited” to be at this stage and the district plans to begin the bidding process to hire contractors to renovate the second floor of the Washington Traditional School into new district offices on Wednesday. Howard said the goal is to spend no more than half a million dollars to make those renovations, the expense to be covered through the sales of these other buildings.
In anticipation of this move, the district’s Director of the Service Center Shawn West and his facilities crews removed the chain link fence that once surrounded the front of the historic school.
The removal comes as the district prepares for new office space and the city works on a streetscape and beautification project complete with the planting of Sycamore trees, shrubs and installation of nicely landscaped new sidewalks in front of the school. The combined school and city project will also include a new front entrance to the school suitable for emergency vehicles, with the current courtyard/playground area to become a 34-space parking lot to accommodate the district offices. The district’s Discovery Gardens preschool program that meets in the school building still has fenced in playground and space for students on the lower floors and the annex, with that adjustment offering more spaces to accommodate continued growth in that program.
The district’s Service Center Director Shawn West and his crews removed the fencing, and have done much of the demolition work on the second floor to prepare for the anticipated overhaul.
As part of the sales deal on the district offices, Howard said there will be a time frame for the administration to relocate, and that will likely require some type of leasing agreement with the buyer based on the time it will take to complete the renovation process.
Architect Michael Taylor has worked closely with district officials to prepare a renovation of the school that preserves much of its architectural integrity while making it a functional office at a reasonable price that still assures it will be a “classy project,” Howard said.
State law requires that the proceeds from any school district real estate be used strictly for capital expenses. Once everything is settled, Howard said he would entertain a community conversation with the board related to the community’s educational future, including the possibility of a new high school.
“I know the board will be very thoughtful with that and will actively listen to the community,” Howard said.
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2041.