Originally Published: September 24, 2017 6 a.m.
Prescott Unified School District leaders on Friday celebrated the conclusion of a year-long deal with a Phoenix real estate investment firm to buy the now-vacant Miller Valley Elementary School.
On Friday, the district accepted an offer of $3.8 million for the school that closed in May 2015. The sale was officially recorded in the City Clerk’s office Friday afternoon.
“It’s bittersweet,” admitted Assistant Schools Superintendent Mardi Read about the sale of a school that was an educational home for many generations of Prescott residents over its 99-year history. “So many Prescott residents have gone through Miller Valley, including my own dad, Gil Read. It’s a historic part of the Prescott Unified School District.”
For more than a year, the district has been negotiating to sell off three properties that the taxpayers agreed to sell, as they were no longer needed by the district due to years of declining enrollment. Ironline first bought the former Dexter Elementary School for $1 million at the beginning of the year. That building is now leased to Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy.
Ironline initially had contracts to buy Dexter, Miller Valley and the district offices, but in the spring it withdrew from the deal on the district offices. A second offer from a Paradise Valley company was considered, and that arrangement also did not come to fruition.
Just this past week, the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board voted to approve a contract with a local company to buy the district offices. That deal is expected to be complete by the beginning of 2018 with the details to remain confidential until the sale is final.
The district administration is now awaiting a $385,000 renovation of the Washington Traditional School to relocate its offices to that location — a former elementary school that also closed in 2015 and now is home to the district’s pre-school program, Discovery Gardens, and the district’s Family Resource Center. The goal is for the 20-staff district office to be relocated by January, but it did include in the sale contract for the current office building on the corner of Goodwin and Granite streets a month-to-month lease agreement if needed.
Ironline’s development plans for the Miller Valley site were not revealed on Friday, but the PUSD board members did revise its contract that will allow for demolition of some of that property. The main building was erected in 1916 and over several decades there were additional buildings added to the property. One of the side buildings still sports a pro-environment, diversity mural created by the Mural Mice artists in 2010.
The school, which closed just one year shy of its 100th anniversary, was long a place where generations of Prescott children learned to read and write, play hopscotch in the courtyard and frolic with classmates on the playground at recess. Some playground equipment still stands on the property, though it is fenced off to the public.
Negotiations on the district’s real estate has been managed through Commercial Properties Northern Arizona.
On Friday, CPNA owners Donald Teel and JT Purvis announced the closing as a part of an overall growth and development plan for the area around Willow Creek and Iron Springs Road that will prove beneficial to the future of the city.
“The sale of Miller Valley School is a key indicator that the Prescott market is once again beginning to attract new investment, creating jobs and revenue for the community,” Purvis said.
The local retail recovery has been slow mostly to excessive retail construction, a phenomenon that Teel said continues but he sees “positive growth in jobs, wages and new projects, including whatever ends up being developed on the Miller Valley site. Teel is currently managing the former Hastings property across the street from the school, and is expected to be torn down and replaced by a large Circle K facility.
“We see a measurable improvement in commercial activity, values and projects and this tells me we are in a slow, but sustainable recovery,” Purvis said.
The Miller Valley sale brings closer to fruition the school district’s desire to focus on the next phase of its future.
District Superintendent Joe Howard said the money from these sales is essentially going to be saved to provide the district with some future development options, as well as cover emergency, safety and other such capital expenses that might be required. State law restricts these dollars to only capital, or one-time, educational expenses.
Since the state has reduced capital requests for most districts, Howard said some of this money may be required to supplement inevitable maintenance needs for the district’s existing facilities.
“We continue to watch the local discussion around developing the downtown Mile High area, for which in return, we would be considering a new high school building to replace that loss of capacity and to offer our students a state-of-the-art facility,” Howard said. “The current PHS is 50 years of age, and depending on what the Prescott community sees fit for our future students, that has been on our radar as a vision of the Prescott future.”