Pittsburgh Public School district recommended the board to accept and reject two bids for unused school buildings in the Northside this week.
PPS recommended the acceptance of a $1.1 million bid for the Ridge Avenue school building in West Allegheny made by the nonprofit outreach group Light of Life Ministries.
Light of Light Ministries is a faith-based outreach program that serves the poor, homeless and addicted. At their current headquarters on West North Avenue in the Central Northside, Light of Life provides food, shelter and resources to the needy.
Light of Life Executive Director Craig Schweiger said that the current building they are in is “grossly inadequate,” and that the Ridge Avenue building would provide them with 8,000 additional square feet. He also mentioned that the line outside the building of people waiting for services has been a concern of community developers.
The Allegheny West Civic Council objects to Light of Light’s use of the Ridge Avenue School building.
“This is an utter non-conformist use,” said Jim Wallace, AWCC’s housing and planning chair. “This is not the correct place for this to be.”
Wallace noted that the AWCC welcomes Light of Life and its mission, but does not believe that the Ridge Avenue school building should serve as its new headquarters because the area is not zoned for that use, and it conflicts with Allegheny West’s 25-year-old master plan, which is available to the public.
Allegheny West’s master plan calls for the Ridge Avenue property to be used as a residential area, as its zoning dictates.
“An enormous amount of labor has gone into this master plan,” said Wallace, who noted that they have worked with CCAC and collaborated master plans to use the Ridge Avenue property as residential area.
CCAC also made a bid for the property for new heath care programs, but came in second to Light of Life.
The board will vote on the sale of the building at its Nov. 22 meeting.
On Nov. 21, there will be a public hearing to gauge feedback from the community at PPS’s administrative offices in Oakland. Those wishing to address the board must sign up in advance.
A $62,713 bid for the Horace Mann building in Brightwood made by New Hope Neighborhood Renewal was recommended for rejection by the school board, who hoped to get more than $200,000 for the building. It was the only bid made on the property.
New Hope Neighborhood Renewal is run through New Hope Church on Shadeland Avenue in Brightwood. NHNR was responsible for transforming the problematic Homeplate Bar into the local gelato and coffee shop, Café and Creamery. NHNR also runs the Y.E.S Kids and S.T.E.P. programs, which mentor urban youth and guide them through secondary education.
NHNR’s bid proposed using the building for a mix of commercial, office and residential space to bring business, residents and services to Brightwood.
Prior to the decision, PPS said their decisions whether or not to accept bids would be based on offer price, outstanding debt and whether or not the new owner would be taxable, provide positive community benefits, have the potential to increase student enrollment and whether or not the owner had done successful and similar renovations before.
NHNR’s proposal noted that their use of the building would provide positive community benefits, had the potential to boost enrollment through their mentoring programs and would expand the tax base by providing commercial, office and residential space as well as jobs.
Pittsburgh Public Schools recommended the rejection of the bid because it “failed to meet or exceed the requested amount, and other benefits described in the bid did not sufficiently improve the overall bid for the District to reconsider at this time.”
Sale prices for unused school buildings are based on the debt PPS owes on them.