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Keep it a school? Community shares vision for Schenley High School building

While Oakland’s Schenley High School may have closed its doors in 2008, some community members believe the building should remain an institution of learning.

That was just one of several scenarios that were developed during a series of recent planning sessions led by the Schenley Farms Civic Association and Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.

Architect Rob Pfaffmann, a project consultant, says neighborhood residents want the school board to think outside the box in terms of what an educational intuition could look like in this facility.  

Community members considered various possibilities, from an International Baccalaureate program, to an employment training facility or an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  

But Pfaffmann says the community was most excited about the possibility of a mixed-use facility that combined residential units on the top floors, with office or educational space on the bottom.  He says this scenario would allow a developer to take advantage of historic tax credits by creating apartments, while renting space to an income-producing learning institution on the bottom floors.

All of the scenarios have been gathered in a report, available on OPDC’s website, which will be presented to school board on August 15th.

But Pfaffman says all of these scenarios will be high magnitude challenges from a development perspective.

“If it was easy, it would have already been done,“ he says.  “In order for a developer to be successful it probably means that he has to offer a fairly low purchase price to the school board.”

When the school board originally listed the building for sale last year, they received only one bid for $2 million from PMC Property Group of Philadelphia.

Pfaffmann says the school board has cooperated with the Oakland community throughout this process, and Superintendent Linda Lane agreed to delay the school’s sale while the process was put in place.

The three public meetings were made possible by funding secured from City Councilman Bill Peduto.  The goals of the meetings were to provide information about best practices, address community concerns and desires, and provide a report of these findings to the school board.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rob Pfaffmann
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