My Old School



Do you remember that old song from the seventies? It popped into my head recently as I drove by a local school being demolished. Even though I did not attend this school, it kind of made me sad that a 110 year old building is suddenly gone. Imagine the number of people who darkened those halls and what they have gone on to do with their lives. But in a way, it made me happy as well. It indicates our city’s aggressive efforts to improve the economic landscape.  And it also signals progress.  Modern schools demand state of the art facilities, with WiFi access, multi-media technology in each classroom, and fitness facilities for the modern athlete.  You might ask, “Should there be some consideration for adapting it to a new use?” The answer lies in whether a return on investment exists. Construction methods and materials were vastly different at the turn of the century, and the question has to be asked: will there be enough revenue generated with the new use to outweigh the cost of remediation? Asbestos and various contaminants were present on the site, and removal is costly, so my guess is these items were too cost-prohibitive to warrant salvaging the building.

This school is located in a mixed-use neighborhood…meaning there are several stores, offices and residential buildings nearby. The site is on a heavily traveled road, which is a major arterial connecting the east and west portions of the city.  Is it possible there is a better use for the land? Despite all-time low interest rates, the housing market is climbing at a slow pace. This is due to a variety of reasons: lack of available credit, low qualifying incomes, unwillingness to “settle down” in one area,  need for housing after losing a house to foreclosure and the need for high down payments are just a few. Multi-tenant residential properties are fully occupied in nearly every neighborhood I encounter. And it does not seem to depend upon the underlying economic characteristics of the community. Apartments are in high demand.

This demand could drive a new apartment use for the this fully depreciated school building site.  Which in turn brings new tax revenue to the city and ultimately improves the local economy. So the next time you’re “singing the blues” over the disappearance of your favorite hangout or building from a childhood memory, you might consider that, in the end, it’s better for the community and will ultimately help improve the quality of life.

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