Issuu on Google+

The Future of Schenley High School A Community Vision Plan

July 30, 2012

Schenley Farms Civic Association



Dr. Linda S. Lane, Superintendent  Pittsburgh Public Schools  341 S. Bellefield Avenue  Pittsburgh, PA  15213      Dear Dr. Lane:    The Steering Committee of the Future of Schenley High School Community Vision Plan is pleased to  present the results of our study for consideration by you and the School Board.  This study is the result  of hundreds of hours of community volunteer and professional effort.  Our committee would like to  thank District 8 Councilman Bill Peduto for funding and supporting the visioning process that has  resulted in this report.    We want to express our appreciation to you and the board for agreeing to table further action to restart  an RFP process to sell Schenley High School until this study could be developed and considered.  It is our  understanding that the intention is to put this on the August 15th meeting agenda and we have worked  diligently to complete our work in time to do so.    Steering Committee representatives from BACA, SFCA, OPDC and our facilitator Pfaffmann and  Associates would appreciate the opportunity to meet with the board on the 15th, or another meeting of  your choosing, to discuss our work and directly answer questions from members of the School Board.   We look forward to receiving confirmation that we can be included on the meeting agenda.    Kindest regards,        Norman Cleary  President  Schenley Farms Civic Association  Member, Steering Committee  norman.cleary@cleary‐    4323 Parkman Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213-1414 Phone: (412) 303-2201 FAX: (412) 894-0989

The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

Leadership & Sponsors

Future of Schenley Steering Committee Bellefield Area Citizens Association (BACA) Schenley Farms Civic Association (SFCA) Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC)

Study Funding Office of Councilman Bill Peduto City of Pittsburgh

Consultant Pfaffmann + Associates Architecture Planning Preservation


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

Table of Contents

Leadership & Sponsors 1.0 Introduction & Goals 2.0 Recent History 3.0 Building History 4.0 Building Construction & Historic Preservation 4.1 Significance 4.2 Historic Preservation Designations 4.3 Historic Preservation Tax Credits 4.4 Character-Defining Features 4.5 Sustainability 5.0 Alternatives Analysis 5.1 Academic/Learning Uses 5.2 Residential Uses 5.3 Commercial 5.4 Creative Incubator Uses (lower level) 5.5 Mixed Uses 5.6 Interim Uses 5.7 Accessory Uses 5.8 Parking 5.9 Retail Uses 6.0 Rehabilitation Benchmarks 7.0 Request for Proposals Development (RFP) 8.0 Financial Incentives & Cost Implications 9.0 Appendices Letters regarding reusing Schenley as a school Presentation Summaries & Meeting Notes OPDC Community Blogs & Letters RFP Examples Previous Studies List / Web References Sustainable Design Goals Conceptual Area and Budget Worksheet


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

1.0 Introduction & Goals The Board of Public Education of the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) passed a Resolution August 24, 2011, which included Schenley High School on a list of seventeen closed schools to be offered for sale. That resolution outlined a request for proposals (RFP) process and bid submission process to be completed by December 31, 2011. This resulted in at least four significant community concerns about the school board’s actions. 1. The community was overwhelmingly struck with a sense of disenfranchisement. The new resolution’s reversal of a June 25, 2008 action pertaining to Schenley High School to “…create a committee to include district, community, and other governmental representatives to work together to pursue several long-term options for use, investment and or renovation of this historic landmark” was received with great disappointment. Public testimony before the school board by citizens and civic leaders, as well as media coverage of public reaction, left no doubt about the public sentiment. 2. The resolution was seen as a “final blow” to many in the community who held hope that somehow Schenley would assume a new role in the realignment of the Pittsburgh Public School System. 3. The time-line set by the resolution was viewed as overly optimistic, at best, and cause for great concern on the part of many real estate professionals and historic preservationists who were willing to offer comment. 4. The RFP was criticized as being inadequate for the sale of a real estate asset as historically significant and complex as the Schenley High School property. It is important to note that the community is deeply concerned with the fiscal challenges afflicting Pittsburgh Public Schools. In this context, the decision to reject the single $2 million offer for Schenley, in response to the RFP, was viewed by most critics as a sober and responsible action on the part of this school board. In the year that has elapsed since the resolution’s passing, alumni and community passions on the subject and willingness to offer constructive input have heightened. On May 22, 2012, Schenley High School’s home district city councilman Bill Peduto introduced legislation to allocate funds to conduct a study on adaptive reuse of Schenley High School for presentation to the school board. The community immediately embraced this study as an opportunity to participate in a structured process to accept community input, collaborate on a fresh architectural assessment of the property and participate in a professionally facilitated forum. A volunteer Steering Committee was assembled including representatives from Bellefield Area Citizens Association (BACA), Schenley Farms Civic Association (SFCA), and Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC). On June 18, Pfaffmann + Associates was selected as the study facilitator from a list of nine firms invited to respond to a request for proposals. Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane agreed to take no further action on the sale of Schenley until August 1, thereby creating a very concentrated six-week window for completion of the study. A series of three public meetings was held to engage constituents from not just the “close in” neighborhoods of North Oakland but the broader community including the Hill District, Uptown and South Oakland. There is little doubt that more time would have permitted additional community leader participation. However, all three meetings were well attended and input from all participating constituents is reflected in the study.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

In the pages that follow, it will be apparent to the school board that many in the community wish Schenley High School to remain a component of the Pittsburgh Public School System. The steering committee and study facilitator do not take an advocacy position on this issue. The charter of this study is strictly the adaptive reuse of Schenley High School based on our understanding of the school board’s decision to sell the historic landmark property. At the same time it would be disingenuous not to reflect the entirety of community input in the study findings. This body of work, while not comprehensive, illustrates possible, practical and financially achievable options for consideration by qualified developers. Further it offers direction to the school board on the types of adaptive reuse that may be acceptable to the community at large and the close residential neighborhoods likely to be most affected. It includes content for use in marketing the property to qualified developers, suggestions for developer solicitation and an RFP process outline with appropriate timelines as well as language for inclusion in a new RFP. We do not consider delivery of this report to the board the end of our community process. Rather we believe it to be the end of the beginning of our participation. We ask you to formalize a process for our continued participation that will lead to optimized value of Schenley as a Pittsburgh Public Schools asset, implement the best process possible in support of your final decision on the disposition of Schenley and assure the highest possible adaptive reuse. Pittsburgh Public Schools students, City of Pittsburgh taxpayers and the community that has been home to Schenley High School for almost a century deserve no less. Future of Schenley Steering Committee July 31, 2012


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

2.0 Recent History 2007: Studies & Debate In 2007 the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education announced its intent to close Schenley High School after a number of reports evaluating the condition of the school indicated major capital investments were long overdue. At the center of the debate were three intertwined issues: 1. High School Programs: The school district’s “right-sizing” program (spurred by dropping enrollment at the high school level, shifting demographics and varying levels of student performance), created a complex decision about how to reduce excess school capacity while providing improved quality programs and infrastructure for future generations of students. 2. Building Infrastructure: The deferred capital repair and replacement of the building infrastructure at Schenley (heating, electrical and plumbing systems, including ADA improvements) is made more complicated by the context of the conditions at other schools in consideration for closure or improvements. 3. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM): Without trying to recap all of the technical details of the asbestos question, this report takes the position that whoever reuses the building will do new studies and draw new judgments about how to remediate the varying types, locations and densities of asbestos in the building. Any reuse budget will have to consider a substantial investment in clean-up and stabilization of existing plaster surfaces. 2008: School Closure After much public debate and analysis the school board voted Resolution 65 of June 25, 2008 to close the school. The purpose of this report is not to travel back and evaluate the wisdom of this decision, but rather to prepare for a likely sale of the school. 2011-2012: School Sales Process In 2011, the Schenley Farms Civic Association undertook an effort to include the community in the disposition (bid) process after the first proposal to purchase Schenley was not acted upon by the school board. Only one bid was received (PMC Properties of Philadelphia for $2 million). The bid form indicated bids of $4 million or higher would be given preference. In May 2012 the school board voted to delay the sale of Schenley, while proceeding with the process for fourteen remaining closed schools not already sold or under contract. Subsequent meetings with Superintendent Lane and board member Thomas Sumpter secured agreement to allow a very quick visioning process. In June 2012, Councilman Bill Peduto allocated $5,000 to engage an architect to facilitate and develop an efficient, fast-tracked set of meetings and this resulting report. Oakland Planning and Development Corporation provided the organizational resources to facilitate a contract and outreach process using its extensive community database. Adjacent neighborhood organizations of Shadyside, Bloomfield and the Hill District were also invited to participate in the visioning process, because Schenley’s history and stakeholders extend far beyond traditional geopolitical boundaries. Reuse Of The School As A School Included in the Appendices is a listing of past reports and articles that provide useful background for those interested in how the decision to close Schenley came to be and why opponents continue to believe that the “school should be reopened as a school.” At the final community meeting, there was general agreement that this report should contain an appendix to allow these views to be effectively communicated and understood.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

There is a general view from those in the neighborhood that the reopening of some form of public, private or innovative hybrid learning institution may be acceptable and could be compatible with the neighborhood. In other words, if the school board changed its mind, the community would be open to discussion about a “new” Schenley school. This question is beyond the charge, expertise and resources of the Future of Schenley visioning process and this companion report. Nonetheless, a school use option is included on the list of reuse strategies. 3.0 Building History Schenley High School opened in 1916 in Pittsburgh’s North Oakland neighborhood and was immediately recognized for its state-of-the-the art design and innovative curriculum. Named for Pittsburgh philanthropist Mary Schenley on whose land the school was built, the school helped to address the educational needs of Pittsburgh’s growing East End neighborhoods and to provide better facilities for students from a number of older, smaller high schools—chief among these being the Hill District’s 1872 Central High School. Architect Edward Stotz (1868-1948) was chosen to design Schenley High School. Stotz was arguably one of the most experienced designers of educational facilities in the Pittsburgh area at the time, having designed Fifth Avenue High School (1894), South Side High School (1897) and Colfax Elementary School (1911). Stotz’s unique triangular plan, which took advantage of the irregularly-shaped lot and sloping topography, resulted in the first high school in the United States to cost over a million dollars. While record setting, the project was noteworthy for the economy of its design. Heralded as “remarkably low considering the quality of the building” the cost to construct Schenley was only 19.5 cents per cubic foot compared to Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse High School six years later at 1 43.7 cents. During its first year, 1800 students attended the new high school. Enrollment peaked in 1940 at 3,012 students. Long cherished by Pittsburgh families as both a place and a program, Schenley operated as a school building until 2009, at which time Pittsburgh Public Schools closed the building and moved staff and students to the former Reizenstein Middle School building. Classes continued through 2011, when the final class of existing Schenley students graduated. 4.0 Building Construction And Preservation In plan, Schenley High School forms an isosceles triangle with a base of 468 feet and sides of 250 feet. Constructed of steel and concrete and faced with Indiana limestone, the school is built upon 1,700 concrete piles. The building is set into a hillside with three stories visible on the front façade and six stories visible at the rear corner. At the center is an 1800-seat auditorium flanked by open light courts and surrounded by broad corridors. When it opened, the building contained forty classrooms, eleven laboratories, eleven shops, four crafts rooms, seven domestic science rooms, two music rooms, six commercial rooms, a large library, a girls’ and a boys’ gymnasium, a swimming pool, reception rooms, rest rooms and twenty 2 toilet rooms—for a total of one hundred and eighty rooms.


Lu Donnelly and Martin Aurand, Pittsburgh Public Schools Thematic Group, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form (September 30, 1986; NRHP Reference #86002706). 2 “Splendid Schenley High School, Erected as a Cost of Nearly $1,500,000 Ready for Occupancy,” The Pittsburgh Press, 17 September 1916.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

4.1 Significance From the time of its construction, Schenley was nationally noted as a precedent-setting school— both for the building’s state-of-the-art design and for its innovative curriculum. Its design included specialty spaces recommended by educational reformers like William A. Wirt, Superintendent of Schools in Gary, Indiana. Wirt advocated for platoon schools—facilities that could accommodate large numbers of students who would rotate in shifts or platoons between academic studies in classrooms while the other platoon used non-classroom facilities, such as the gymnasium, art rooms and shops. He also advocated evening and weekend use of the school by the local community. By educating more students per facility, and doubling its use a community center, any 3 extra cost could be justified. Schenley’s first principal, James Noble Rule, further espoused the concept in a series of national speaking engagements and articles. In The Place of the Modern Secondary School in a Democracy, Rule argued that the modern school should be a “an extension of the life of the community” in which students are educated “to serve well not their own interests only, but the common wealth above all else.” The now-ubiquitous tablet-arm classroom desk was developed especially for Schenley High School. Designed under the direction of Dr. H. B. Burns, this radical departure from the oldfashioned rigid desk was “so designed that the pupil [was] compelled to sit in the correct hygienic 4 position.” 4.2 Historic Preservation Designations Schenley High School has been identified as a historically significant resource in the following designations: • A contributing property in the Pittsburgh Public Schools National Register of Historic Places Thematic Group (September 30, 1986; NRHP Reference #86002706) • A contributing property in the Schenley Farms National Register Historic District (July 22, 1983; NRHP Reference #83002213). • A contributing property in the Oakland Civic Center City-Designated Historic District (April, 1992). 4.3 Historic Preservation Tax Credits One strategy for rehabilitating Schenley High School is to use historic preservation tax credits. • A 20% federal income tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of historic, incomeproducing buildings that meet certain requirements (including listing on the National Register of Historic Places). • As of July 1, 2012, a 25% state income tax credit is also available. While modeled after the federal program, it has a $3M initial annual limit (statewide), a cap of $500,000 (per project), and a requirement that there be an equitable distribution of the credits across the state. 4.4 Character Defining Features In order to qualify for federal and state preservation tax credits, work must be performed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standard for Rehabilitation. Among the

3 4


Donnelly and Aurand. “Splendid Schenley,” The Pittsburgh Press.

The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

requirements, this means that the building must retain the character-defining features that make it eligible for listing in the National Register. Character-defining features are the visual and physical aspects that contribute to a building’s distinct identity. They typically include the overall shape of the building, its materials, craftsmanship, decorative details, interior spaces and features, as well as the various aspects of its site and environment. A list of some of the important character-defining features of Schenley High School includes the following: Exterior • Unique triangular form with rounded corners and projecting front entry pavilion • Restrained, monochrome limestone exterior with ornamentation limited primarily to the classically-inspired frieze and Ionic columns at the entry • “Schenley High School” inscribed in frieze • Monumental entry stairs • Light wells • Fenestration (location and patterns of exterior window/door openings) allowing natural light and natural ventilation Interior • • • • • • • • • •

Generous corridors / rhythm of interior door placement in corridors / sequence of spaces Multiple grand interior stairs with cast iron and oak railings Terrazzo and mosaic floors Hardwood floors and baseboards Plaster crown moldings and similar details (pilasters, entablatures with dentils and wreaths, etc.) Oak interior doors and trim Classically-inspired plaster art reproductions The auditorium (including its unencumbered open plan, stage, music organ, ornate plaster crown moldings and pilasters) Rounded corner classrooms Large, open library space

4.5 Sustainability The community and school board may want to consider sustainability standards such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and zoning approvals as an incentive or mandate in the RFP process. Schenley was a green building ahead of its time. Stotz designed the building as a naturally ventilated school with a fresh air distribution system hidden in the corridor walls. Eight air washers cleaned and humidified the air and cooled the air in the summer. All classrooms, corridors and stairs were naturally day lighted, and the building featured long-lasting materials requiring low maintenance. For a school renovation, the option to not introduce air-conditioning has been raised as a way of saving significant sums of money. While it may be possible to naturally cool the school, residential uses will demand air conditioning. One option might be a cogeneration system that provides electric power, hot water for heating, and absorption chilling for school air conditioning.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

5.0 Alternatives Analysis The visioning process included three community meetings to identify and assess potential reuse options for Schenley High School. Meeting 1: Generation of ideas and comments from the community for potential reuse options Meeting 2: Presentation by the architect of a series of “test-fits” or capacity studies + community input Meeting 3: Review of final reuse concepts + community input The following alternatives were studied as potential reuse options: 5.1 Academic/Learning Uses An Innovative Past is a Foundation for an Innovative Future Despite the age of its infrastructure, it can be argued that Schenley’s architectural and spatial configuration can be adapted to modern educational approaches. The school’s original educators and architect were innovators in the context of their times. The building’s broad, light-filled corridors, natural ventilation and specialized spaces allowed for new learning approaches. Forming Small Learning Communities: “Neighborhoods” in an Existing High School Today, high performing learning environments are changing to “neighborhood” forms that respond to new pedagogical approaches that emphasize collaboration and small group learning. The physical designs of these learning environments respond to research that has established that “green” schools and creating a sense of place support more effective learning. However, it should be noted that the ideal of the traditional high school is still changing and alternative and extended approaches to learning may create new opportunities to again make Schenley the innovative hub of education in Pittsburgh that it once was. It is beyond the scope of this report to further evaluate the capacity of Schenley to be reopened and its fit with modern programmatic issues such as classroom sizes and type and size of supporting spaces (library, laboratories, recreational space, etc). The Greenest Building is the One That Already Exists (and Accommodates Change) We encourage developers and the school district to see Schenley’s future as “flexible.” One aspect of sustainable design that is often overlooked is the concept of “buildings that learn.” Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn shows us that buildings that can adapt over and over again to changing needs are the greenest buildings. This requires a more holistic and long view of how we invest in our public assets and work with private sector developers, businesses and institutions. This is Not Your Parents’ Schenley To maintain economic competitiveness locally and globally, learning is no longer confined to the walls of a traditional school or age group (K-12). The concepts of “lifelong learning,” interdisciplinary teaching and refreshing learning skills mandate more effective collaboration with higher education and employers. This may allow a building like Schenley to accommodate new learning uses such as: • • • • • 10

A lifelong learning center (Osher, for example) A thematic charter school (entertainment technology, for example) Post-secondary education career training (health sciences) Continuing education (mandatory in many professions) Retiring to college (50+ and retirement options associated with CCRCs, Cohousing etc.)

The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

Schenley’s location in Oakland near the universities and health care centers may attract an innovative proposal that more fully connects the public schools, neighborhoods and workers to these innovation-economy hubs, while supporting the quality of the adjacent residential neighborhoods of Schenley Farms and North Oakland. 5.2 Residential Uses During the visioning process, the architect briefly evaluated different residential housing configurations based on input from three community meetings. There are two basic residential uses that were considered. Condominiums A condominium is a form of housing ownership where a specified part of a piece of real estate (usually an apartment house) is individually owned while use of and access to common facilities such as hallways, heating system, elevators, exterior areas is executed under legal rights associated with the individual ownership and controlled by the association of owners that jointly 5 represent ownership of the whole piece. This type of residential use was preferred by a number of adjacent residents in Schenley Farms, because it is compatible with the large, single family, home-ownership characteristics of the neighborhood. The legal, economic and physical characteristics of condos fit well with the Schenley High School building and would provide a condo association with flexibility to develop a large array of amenities utilizing the pool, gym and auditorium. The test-fits determined that 51 condominium units might be created (Figure 19). While condos can be any size, like rental apartments, the Pittsburgh market appears to favor larger units. The key challenges of condo conversion are: 1. Condos cannot typically take advantage of historic preservation tax credits and other forms of incentives. Preservation tax credits can generally be used by an individual condominium owner provided the condominium unit is held for the production of income, or is used in a trade or business. Thus, rehabilitation expenditures otherwise qualifying will not be eligible for the credit if the property is used for the taxpayer's personal use. 2. Condos cannot be easily financed in today’s economic climate. 3. Developers do not gain return as quickly as rental property. Rental Residential A rental residential use was also generally supported at the community meetings. The architects tested primarily one- and two-bedroom sizes. The market seems to indicate a need for one and two bedroom units that support the demographic of single or dual-income-no-kids (DINKS) young professionals, and 50+ couples downsizing and involved in the higher education or healthcare communities. The test-fits determined that 93 rental units might be created (Figure 18). A key advantage of rental housing is the ability for the developer to take advantage of significant preservation tax credits. With the tax credits come limitations on how the building may be adapted (see the tax credits and character-defining features above).



Charles Jacobus, Real Estate: An Introduction to the Profession, 11 ed., (Content Technologies, Inc., 2012).


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

The key challenges of residential rental conversion are: 1. Plan Efficiency: The floor plan of Schenley with its triangular plan anchored by very wide (14 foot) single-loaded classroom corridors results in extra space that can not be easily converted without endangering the access to preservation tax credits. With creative, reversible architectural design and approvals from the State Historic Preservation Office, this might be overcome. 2. Auditorium: The preservation tax credits require that character-defining spaces be retained. This means that the original auditorium, which is over 8,000sf and originally seated 1,800 students, will be a challenge for developers to reuse and provide some minimal economic return. Ideas include a separate nonprofit/institutional anchored community space, lecture hall or limited performing arts venue. Other schools, such as in Hazleton, Pennsylvania have been successful with this approach. The context of Schenley in the Pittsburgh market for performance venues is challenging at best since there a number of similar performing arts venues that already exist (East Liberty’s Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Northside’s New Hazlett, Downtown’s August Wilson Center) along with a number being planned (Point Park’s New Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Hill District’s New Granada Theater). In a brief review of the performing arts market with Charlie Humphrey, (CEO of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, The Glass Center and the Center for the Arts), such venues are challenged to maintain financial sustainability. The auditorium at Schenley is a venue looking for a market gap in the East End. It is possible that Osher lifelong learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) or Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), or schools of music could use it, but the auditorium’s size and configuration may limit it to large attendance numbers. Again reconfiguring the auditorium is a challenge to meet the tax credit requirements and create a financially viable plan. For developers, the trade-off is tax credits versus maximized residential reuse. In the study of condo conversion, the assumption would be no tax credits, and would allow for additional unique units (up to eight) within the shell of the auditorium. Although they would not have external views they could claim the courtyard as outdoor space (internal green roofed garden/court). 3. Gym & Pool: Developers may see the gym and pool as assets or liabilities in terms of operational cost. Some may see them as amenities to be used by residents of the building only, and others may look for ways to develop a business plan to run them like a health club that could include memberships for neighborhood residents or other tenants if a mixed use proposal is undertaken. There was a strong interest in seeing the gym and pool made accessible for community use (even on an interim basis, if for some reason the main building stays underdeveloped or unoccupied for long periods). If the pool/gym addition were removed, a triangular site would be able to accommodate approximately fifty parking spaces. A Note on Cooperative Housing A housing cooperative is a legal entity—usually a corporation—that owns the real estate. Housing cooperatives are a distinctive form of home ownership that has many characteristics that make it different than other residential arrangements such as single-family ownership, condominiums and renting. The corporation is membership based, with membership granted by way of a share purchase in the cooperative. A primary advantage of the housing cooperative is the pooling of the members’ resources so that their buying power is leveraged, thus lowering the cost per member 6 in all the services and products associated with home ownership. 6

National Cooperative Law Center, What is a Housing Cooperative?


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

As with condominiums, projects to create cooperatively-owned housing do not typically qualify for preservation tax credits. 5.3 Commercial Uses There was generally no support for conventional office or research use at Schenley. The Zoning RM-VH does not allow for this. Parking capacity on site (even with the addition of structured decks) is very limited (Figure 7). A use variance or zoning change—both highly difficult to achieve—would be required. Concerns that Pitt or the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) would acquire or lease the building for such uses seems unlikely because of these limitations. The architects studied three potential office options. The test-fits show the rentable area for each of the upper three floors to be in the 47,000 sf range, not including the auditorium (Figure 22). Add 9,000 if the auditorium is leased or converted to rentable office or conferencing space, totaling about 150,000 net useable sf out of 320,000 gross sf. Single Use Corporate Office In this scenario it would be likely that a 47,000 SF floor plate would be attractive if the existing interior walls were demolished to create open plan environments (Figure 10). This would rule out preservation tax credits and would create a high demand for parking, due to the density of the office space. Multi-Tenant Speculative Office This option is similar to the single tenant use, except the existing floor plates would require careful creation of common space, elevator lobbies and corridors, reducing the rentable space efficiencies. Office Incubators or “Cowork Space” The upper level classrooms (see next section for lower level incubator space) could be used as office condos or incubators at low density per unit. The cost to renovate for a low rent market makes this unlikely on the upper floors. There are examples of cowork office space in Pittsburgh and in other areas where costs of space are prohibitive for young start ups in the creative technology sectors. Greenpoint Coworking in Brooklyn is one example, while the Ice House in Pittsburgh is another example of similar shared workspaces. The Energy Innovation Center (former Connelly School in the Lower Hill District neighborhood) may also include such space marketed to similar "eds and meds" needs connected to the project’s business plan. Zoning and parking impacts make this option difficult to achieve as a stand-alone reuse concept. 5.4 Creative Incubator Uses (Lower Level) The concept of a multi-tenant incubator space (about 70,000 sf) where the emphasis is on early stage start up businesses that have low occupancy uses was considered desirable but not for the whole building. The basement level has no light access at all except on the southern perimeter and two skylights over the old gym spaces. These might make great workshop areas tandem with offices on the perimeter (about 12,000 sf) for specific uses such as entertainment technology and robotics. It is even possible to imagine a live/work scenario with certain building and zoning code issues resolved. See Figure 21 for this concept at the basement and ground levels.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

There was general community support at the meetings for this use as long as it did not have excessive traffic, service, noise and light impacts. There was general enthusiasm for this kind of use when tied closely to a cross-generational, lifelong learning concept. 5.5 Mixed Uses As shown above in the discussion of single uses for residential and office, Schenley is best considered as four zones for reuse that maximize the reuse potential for the building in a mixed use form. Each zone as described previously, reflects the spatial limitations or opportunities: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Residential on the upper floors Workspace/less desirable residential on the lower floors The auditorium The gym/pool Addition

5.6 Interim Uses At the final meeting it was suggested that interim uses should be considered. Interim use is a legal/code possibility but does raise difficult operational and environmental issues. The building is not zoned/equipped to heat and cool only certain areas in the main structure. The auditorium and gym/pool might be useable if an organization paid a share of operating costs and preparation to make them operational again since they have been closed for four years now. Last but not least, the idea of interim use assumes that the school board would vote to “mothball” the facility rather then sell it to a developer, who would likely be motivated to develop a permanent reuse. 5.7 Accessory Uses A daycare facility was suggested in a community meeting. This use might work well with existing market needs as Oakland’s worker and residential population grows in the future. It might work well with some form of learning/education facility on the lower floors. This would need to be studied by developers and daycare operators. 5.8 Parking and Traffic Parking drives many development projects, and Schenley is no different. However, Oakland’s walkability and access to transit reduces demand depending on the market demographic for the project. Currently 97% of workers live outside Oakland. The Oakland 2025 Vision Plan sets a target for increasing the age of families that will choose Oakland to reduce commuting and dependence on a car. The good news is there are some indicators that are beginning to change based on the number of auto users at Bakery Square, and increased demand for rental housing in downtown and Oakland. The Oakland 2025 Vision Plan targets nearby Centre/Craig (North Oakland Business district) for revitalization with more mixed use residential (ground floor retail). A nearby example can serve as a case study. The Elmhurst Group’s proposed Schenley Place project would include 105,366 rentable square feet of office space within one city block of Schenley High School. Their proposed below grade parking with 117 lined spaces / 170 valet spaces is an amenity for the project. However, the proportion of parking spaces per building area is low relative to the market and presents a potential leasing focus aimed at transit- and walkingoriented tenants. Even with limited parking, concerns exist in the neighborhood about the likelihood of adding pressure to already limited on-street parking.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

Developers considering Schenley will need to evaluate the parking capacity and decide how it affects their approach to the project. The condominium and rental housing solutions could possibly work without covered or indoor parking. At a 1:1 ratio, the 75 existing spaces are under the normal zoning and market requirements. Incentives such as LEED and a nearby transit oriented development (TOD) hub at the Busway/BRT-style stop a few blocks away might cause a developer to proceed with fewer parking spaces. However, banks financing the project sometimes demand higher ratios. Parking and access into and out of the site off of Bellefield Avenue will be a concern for developers and residents alike. If a developer proposes a parking structure, Bellefield will be the likely entrance unless the pool and gym were removed. The total parking capacity is based on a very rough study as follows: Existing Lot Capacity: 75 New Capacity: 111 (+1 deck) New Capacity: 142 (+2 decks) Take part of the basement level: Add 85? (further study needed to confirm feasibility) Demolish gym/pool: Add 50 surface spaces Total surface lot capacity without structured parking: 75-125 Total with structured parking (keep gym/pool): 111-142 Maximum with two levels on Bellefield, removal of gym/pool and a single deck in hillside: 192 A mixed-use scenario with 75 spaces for rental housing (1:1 ratio) and 32 spaces for live/work or a 50,000 to 75,000 SF educational use (basement and ground levels) might result in a 110-space demand. If a developer could live with a less than 1:1 ratio and convince the zoning board and community, it might be possible to not build a deck along Bellefield. The Bellefield deck concept needs more careful study and assumes that the changing grade could accommodate an upper and lower entrance removing inefficient internal ramping. Because one level of parking already exists as a surface lot, the cost efficiency is low for additional spaces. Traffic and parking studies by potential developers should be required to provide detailed analysis of traffic and parking impact. These studies should aim to provide the community with information on potential impacts along with proposed solutions that go above and beyond the mere satisfying of code requirements. 5.9 Retail Uses Traditional retail was not studied since it is not an appropriate location or zoning use. It would likely be vigorously opposed by nearby residents. Accessory (supporting residential or academic uses) such as coffee shop, fitness center (old gym and pool), or child-care might be supported by the neighborhood as long as parking and traffic impacts were negligible.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

6.0 Rehabilitation Benchmarks There has been a great deal of interest over the last decade in the question of what to do with America’s aging school buildings. The issue has attracted the attention of national and local preservation and planning organizations and innovative developers, resulting in the publication of a number of guidelines and hundreds of case studies with uses ranging from education to housing to office space. Guidelines—Examples of reuse guidelines include the following: •

Rubman, Kerri. A Community Guide to Saving Older Schools. Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Hylton, Thomas, ed. Renovate or Replace? The Case for Restoring and Reusing Older School Buildings. Harrisburg, PA: The Pennsylvania Historic Schools Task Force.

Benchmarks—A series of benchmarks were identified to illustrate a range of reuse options for school buildings and to show how other communities and developers overcame the unique challenges often posed by this building type. 6.1 Educational Reuse—Hazleton High School (1926), Hazleton, PA (See benchmark illustration A) Looking very much like a castle, the former Hazleton High School was selected as a benchmark to show that sometimes the best reuse for a school can be as a school. While community opposition and a mayor who refused to sign the demolition permit certainly helped, time was the ultimate key to saving the building. First, sufficient time existed to build support and raise funds among the “Castle Keepers.” Second, the passage of time brought changes to the community’s demographics and political landscape resulting in the hiring of an architect to re-evaluate the building. And, third, in addition to pointing out that renovation might cost less than construction, the architect indicated that reuse would solve the district’s space needs a year sooner than construction of a new building. Rehabilitation Date: 2005-7 Proposed Demolition: 1998 New Use: Elementary / Middle School (Grades 3-8) Tax Credits: No Area: 139,000 SF Rehabilitation Cost: $20.6M Cost/SF: $148 Parking: Expanded by removing non-historic additions 6.2 Work-Force Rental Housing—Highlandtown Middle School (1934), Baltimore, MD (See benchmark illustration C) Highlandtown, currently in design development, involves a building with many similarities to Schenley—being of similar size and located in a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood with a large institutional campus for a neighbor (in this case, Johns Hopkins Hospital’s East Campus). Neighborhood desires and concerns over potential negative impacts resulted in a number of design modifications. The project will take advantage of both federal and state preservation tax credits. Rehabilitation Date: Ongoing Sale Price: $530,000 New Use: 34 apartments; 1BR $1200-$1400/month; 2BR $1400-$1600/month Tax Credits: Federal and state Area: 258,000 SF


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

Rehabilitation Cost: $27M projected Parking: 148 spaces within building Developer: Focus Development 6.3 Apartment / Commercial Mix—Buffalo Alternative High School (1913), Buffalo, NY (See benchmark illustration D) This project involved a mix of rental housing and commercial space and was selected as a benchmark for the manner in which the old gymnasium and auditorium—challenging spaces to reuse—were successfully rehabilitated using preservation tax credits. Rehabilitation Date: 2005 New Use: 17 one-bedroom apartments; 12 two-bedroom apartments; 8000SF Commercial Tax Credits: Yes Rehabilitation Cost: $5M Parking: 30 spaces Developer: Signature Development 6.4 Senior Housing—South Hills High School (1916), Pittsburgh, PA (See benchmark illustration E) South Hills High School illustrates a reuse of a high school of similar size and date as Schenley for which tax credits were not utilized. This allowed the developer to demolish the auditorium and shop wings. Rehabilitation Date: 2010 New Use: 106 apartments for seniors, 80% of which are set aside for individuals with incomes below 60% of the area median income. Tax Credits: No Rehabilitation Cost: $23M / $216,000 per unit / $141 per SF Developer: Rodriguez Associates 6.5 Specialty Live/Work—Hyacinth Lofts, Cleveland, OH (See benchmark illustration B) While it occupies former warehouse space rather than a former school, Hyacinth Lofts provides a model for live/work reuse based on a specific theme—in this case, film production. With Pittsburgh having been recently dubbed “The Hollywood of the East,” specialized concepts like this may be worth pursuing, especially for Schenley’s lower floors where the original gymnasiums might be converted to green-screen studios, editing suites, rehearsal studios and screening rooms with apartments occupying the former shop spaces along the perimeter. Rehabilitation Date: 2005 New Use: 51 live/work loft apartments; rehearsal, production, editing and screening facilities; 2500SF fitness center 6.6 Coworking Space—Greenpoint Coworking, Brooklyn, NY (See benchmark illustration F) This benchmark looked at ways to possibly utilize parts of Schenley, particularly the lower floors. In Brooklyn, as in many other urban areas, coworking provides shared workspace for independent workers. Greenpoint offers a variety of space rental plans for writers, painters and other creative workers from all sectors—one location even includes a bicycle repair service while you work! You can spend as little as $25 a day or $350 a month for a desk and access to event rental space that includes a catering kitchen. 6.7 Lifelong Learning / Osher Schenley’s lower floors, auditorium and even the gym/pool could form the foundation for a unique learning institution connecting the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Pitt


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan and CMU Found on the campuses of 116 colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska, each provides a distinctive array of non-credit courses and activities specifically developed for seasoned adults aged 50 or older who are interested in learning for the joy of learning. Schenley could be the base for an Intergenerational Learning and Teaching Center – similar to the Intergenerational Center at the Temple University: In these scenarios, the upper levels of Schenley would be market rental housing that could also be connected as an amenity for a 50+ residential community. Ideally the concept could be connected programmatically to a nearby continuous care facility, say on the former Syria Mosque Site (potentially operated by UPMC), as well as academic and continuing education programs in the Oakland area. See for more about planning, marketing and operating university-branded 55+ active adult communities that are tightly integrated with academic host institutions. There are many other ideas for continuing and alternative education that may be a fit for the idea of “The Mary Schenley Universal School” as one resident nicknamed the idea. This idea connects to others working in alternative holistic post-secondary educational programs such as the Saxifrage School ( Additional models or hybrid ideas can be considered for Schenley that tie into the above programmatic concepts. These ideas are highly popular at community meetings in Oakland’s 2025 Vision Plan Process and well as during the Schenley visioning process. The challenge for a developer is connecting these dots of learning, living and innovation. 7.0 Request For Proposal Development (RFP) 7.1 Background The Board of Education and state laws guide the development of language for RFPs for the sale of schools. There are three basic ways that the school district can sell a school: Bid/Auction Upset Price -based on debt and three appraisals Sell to an authority or nonprofit 7.2 Model Requests for Proposals The following RFPs were identified as good examples for model language based on the manner in which they sought innovative reuse ideas, included community participation, protected historic features of the building, and vetted the financial soundness of the developer and the reuse concept (see Appendices). • • •

Highlandtown Middle School, Baltimore, MD, 2008 Northfield Middle School, Northfield, MN, 2002 Old Cony High School, Augusta, ME, 2010

7.3 RFP Development Recommendations Based on discussions with the Steering Committee and input from three community meetings, it is recommended that a RFP development committee be established with the cooperation and leadership of the Board of Education to identify the applicable best practices form other RFPs and need for this specific reuse development proposal.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

Key issues should include: • •

• • •

• •

Reuse Concerns—Enumerate primary concerns, such as desired community benefits, good neighbor principles, parking, public access to the auditorium, gym, pool, etc. Goals for Successful Reuse—Develop a focused list of criteria for successful reuse, such as economic feasibility, respect for the surrounding neighborhood, preservation of historic features, etc. Preferred Options for Reuse—Present a preferred list of building uses (as identified through the test-fit analysis of the Schenley visioning process) with specific illustrative examples. Criteria for Selection—Develop a detailed list for evaluating proposals (qualifications, capacity, experience, financial feasibility, financial offer, program, benefits to the community, probability for success, preservation, minority participation, etc.). Community Participation—Outline the details for a required community participation process, including the number and types of community presentations, the ability to review finalists, timeline, etc. Adequate Timeline—Develop an RFP timeline based on surveys of similar high quality processes—which typically average six to nine months. Financial Feasibility—Require potential developers to include a comprehensive budget, “Sources and Uses” statement, proformas, etc. Detailed Concept and Program Plans—Require potential developers to include floor plans and accompanying narrative description, cost estimates, schedule, details of similar executed projects, etc. Traffic and Parking Studies—Require detailed traffic and parking studies to adequately understand and mitigate potential negative impacts from the proposed reuse option. Construction Management Plan—Require a detailed construction management plan in coordination with the community to minimize negative impacts from construction.

8.0 Financial Incentives and Cost Implications While this study was not charged with exploring in detail the financial aspects of reuse, a series of incentives that may assist a developer in creating a viable proforma for the reuse of Schenley High School have been identified and are listed below. Some residents feel that putting Schenley back on the tax roles should be a priority so that the school district can improve its tax base, while others stressed that the school board should consider the highest and best use in terms of both community benefit and financial return to the district. A summary of Schenley’s areas and capacities along with an analysis of “ball park” budgets for rehabilitation is contained in the Appendices (“Conceptual Area & Budget Worksheet”). It should be emphasized that these are not detailed estimates of construction cost, but rather analyses based on historic data from other projects and engineering consultants. They give a sense of the financial magnitude of the project. Each developer will have to evaluate a wide range of cost models for each building system’s likely cost. Historic Preservation Tax Credits A 20% federal income tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings that meet very specific National Park Service and IRS requirements. As of July 1, a 25% state income tax credit is also available. While modeled after the federal program, it has a $3M annual limit (statewide) and a cap of $500,000 (per project).


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

New Markets Tax credits The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) is part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act 2000. The NMTC Program provides tax credit incentives to investors for equity investments in certified Community Development Entities, which invest in low-income communities. The credit equals 39% of the investment paid out (5% in each of the first three years, then 6% in the final four years, for a total of 39%) over seven years (more accurately, six years and one day of the seventh year). A Community Development Entity must have a primary mission of investing in lowincome communities and persons. Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program is a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and historical improvement projects. RACP recently underwent a redesign of its project selection process. This was done to 1) define the application process with published guidelines and procedures; 2) implement merit-based evaluation and selection; 3) promote transparency; and 4) maintain rigorous monitoring, measurement and reporting. CITF Grant and Loan Applications Allegheny County will begin accepting applications for 2012-13 on September 4, 2012. Emphasis is placed on job creation, being part of a community plan and having matching funds. There are many other grants and tax credit opportunities a developer may pursue in housing, energy and economic development entities. If Schenley were to remain a school, some have suggested that older schools be designated brownfield sites to tap financial assistance available from state government. The school board may also be able to approve Tax Increment Financing for projects that have the optimum set of benefits to the tax base.


The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan

9.0 APPENDICES I. Letters regarding reusing Schenley as a school II. Presentation Summaries & Meeting Notes III. OPDC Community Blogs & Letters IV. RFP Examples V. Previous Studies List / Web References VI. Sustainable Design Goals VII. Conceptual Area and Budget Worksheet