Ohio firm ends bid to buy former Irving school

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  • In October, the Erie School Board unanimously approved a purchase agreement to sell the unused Irving School for $400,000 to a low-income senior housing developer.
  • The deal was not final and allowed the developer to walk away if it couldn’t secure certain approvals and funding
  • Irving is back on the market as Erie School District continues to push to sell unused buildings

The former Irving Elementary School in the Erie School District is back on the market and no longer targeted for low-income senior housing.

A developer waived a purchase agreement to buy the 125-year-old building and adjoining property for $400,000.

The developer, Woda Cooper Development Inc., of Columbus, Ohio, which entered into the purchase agreement with the Erie School District in October, terminated the agreement because it was “unable to obtain approvals local funding needed,” according to a letter dated April 6. from Woda Cooper to the neighborhood.

Prospective sale:Erie School District in $400,000 deal to sell Irving School to low-income senior housing developer

Woda Cooper, which already owns three housing estates in Erie County, planned to raze the 60,663-square-foot Irving, at 2310 Plum St., and build a 60-unit apartment building for low-income and affordable seniors on the site, just east of Washington Park. As part of the deal, Woda Cooper was also to purchase the 2.32 acres that Irving sits on and 1.77 acres that includes a softball field next to the school.

Woda Cooper intended to apply for federal social housing tax credit for the project, according to the purchase contract. Woda Cooper’s architect for the project had estimated the cost of the new building at $5.9 million, less than the $8.6 million to $10 million the developer said he would have to spend to renovate all or part of the existing Irving building.

The purchase agreement allowed Woda Cooper to terminate the agreement if it was unable to obtain financing and other necessary approvals by the end of 2022. The purchase agreement also stipulated that the sale needed court approval because the Erie School District was selling public assets to a for-profit entity.

The sale process did not go far enough to require the approval of an Erie County judge. Woda Cooper and the Erie School District never made the deal, and the district never received the $400,000.

Project received zoning OK

Woda Cooper received a zoning waiver in December to build the housing complex in the Irving neighborhood, which is zoned R-2, for medium residential density.

the Erie Zoning Hearing Board – in a hearing where he heard about the expected cost and scope of the project from the project’s architect, Dale Roth – granted the waiver with several conditions. They included that the school district and Woda Cooper are pursuing plans to maintain property next to the school as public green space.

Zoning approval:Proposed Avalon and Irving School developments benefit from zoning exemptions for construction

Although Woda Cooper overcame zoning obstacles, he could not overcome financial problems.

“We appreciate the efforts of the school board and the city in trying to create affordable senior housing,” Maia P. Cooper, vice president of Woda Cooper Companies Inc., which includes Woda Cooper Development, told the Erie Times. -News in a release on Thursday. “Unfortunately, we have determined that the project is not financially feasible.”

Termination of the purchase agreement was discussed at the Erie School Board’s monthly full committee study session on Wednesday evening.

Erie Schools Superintendent Brian Polito told the council he had adjusted the district’s proposed 2022-2023 budget to reflect that the district would receive no revenue from what had been the planned sale of the school. Irving. The school district closed Irving in 2012 due to declining enrollment.

Revenues “from the sale of Irving were removed because this deal fell through,” Polito told the board.

Woda Cooper’s April 6 letter, which the Erie Times-News received from the school district under the Right to Know Act, says the developer terminated the purchase agreement in accordance with the terms of the agreement. which authorized termination.

“It is disappointing that this proposal has not achieved the outcome intended by both parties,” according to the letter, signed by Andrew B. Cohen, senior vice president of Woda Cooper Companies Inc.

The Erie School District also wanted to see the project move forward, said Randy Pruchnicki, who oversees the district’s real estate as director of non-teaching support services.

“We were hoping it would be good for the city and the neighborhood,” Pruchnicki said Thursday. “Unfortunately, it fell through. Back to the drawing board.”

Randy Pruchnicki opens a door covered in a mural at Irving Elementary School in Erie on June 30, 2017, shortly after the Erie School District put Irving and its other unused buildings up for sale.  Pruchnicki handles real estate matters for the Erie School District as the Director of Non-Instructional Support Services for the Erie School District.

Push to sell unused neighborhood buildings

the Erie School District — with 16 school buildings and more than 10,000 students — has worked to sell unused schools and other properties since Polito started as superintendent in 2017. The district has been pushing for the sales to raise money and cut costs , and said maintaining Irving costs $33,425 a year. year, plus insurance.

Selling unused properties is a recommendation from the Erie School District state-mandated financial improvement planpassed in 2019. The district must adhere to the plan in exchange for receiving, beginning in 2018, $14 million in additional state aid each year to remain solvent.

Since 2018, the district has sold four unused properties: the former Wayne School at East Avenue and East Sixth Street (sold for $250,000); the old Roosevelt School at West 23rd and Cranberry Streets (sold for $246,500); the neighborhood’s former Family Center at East Ninth Street and Payne Avenue (sold for $500,000) and its former Central Kitchen at East 21st and German Streets (sold for $115,000).

Along with Irving, the Erie School District has another unused building on the market: the former Burton Elementary School at 1660 Buffalo Road. The 48,956 square foot Burton, built in 1894 and closed in 2012, is listed at $389,000.

For sale:One of Erie School District’s oldest buildings is back on the market: $389,000 for Burton School

Irving for sale once again

Woda Cooper, the former prospective buyer of the Irving property, specializes in using tax credits to develop affordable, low-income housing, including for seniors, in mid-Atlantic states , Midwest and South Atlantic.

Woda Cooper’s three developments in Erie County are:

  • Willow Commonsa 45-unit seniors’ apartment complex that opened in 2017 in the renovated 1919 Wesleyville Public School at 2064 Willow St. in Wesleyville.
  • Arneman Squarea 50-apartment complex built on the site of the former Lawrence Park Drive-In property at 4690 Iroquois Ave. in Harborcreek Township.
  • meyer greena complex in which Woda has kept 12 low-income townhouses on Chord Road in Corry.

Irving School, which the Erie School District opened in 1897 as Public School No. 6, is no longer on the list. The district renamed the building in 1914 after American author Washington Irving, who wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

The Erie School District is once again courting potential buyers for Irving.

“We’re accepting offers,” Pruchnicki said.

Contact Ed Palatella at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.

Also in the Erie School District:Erie High students return to tight security after school closed by gunshot

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