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Roosevelt Elementary Likely to be Put Up for Bid at Lower Amount

There was no decision made on the fate of the Roosevelt Elementary School Building Tuesday night, but there was a general consensus that the building should be put up for bid again with community approved restrictions.


There will be no classes held in the Roosevelt Elementary School building this school year for the first time in a long time.

But the building itself may hang around under the Iowa City School District's control.

At least for a little while longer.

At an Iowa City School Board Facilities Meeting Tuesday night school board members discussed what to do after a recent reassessment of the building brought in a value much lower than the $770,000 it .

Superintendent Steve Murley said this lower value was due to the restrictions placed on the property by the district in the bidding process after talking with the Roosevelt neighborhood about what they wanted for the property -- such as the building not being turned into a strip mall or apartment building.

Murley said his recommendation would be to continue to put the building up for sale with the restrictions so the district can remain "good neighbors" with the Roosevelt, which is obviously still not pleased after losing their longtime elementary school.

"My proposal would be to put it up for competitive bid again," Murley said.

Murley said this would be with the caveat that a reserve would be placed on the bidding process where the board would not accept bids below the $300,000 appraised price. The previous low bid that caused the reassessment (the only bid received during the first round of bids) was a $201,000 bid from developer Place Partners LLC in Iowa City.

Board member Tuyet Dorau disagreed with putting the property up for bid with restrictions, potentially costing the school district $470,000 in potential funding. She said that determining the eventual use of the building was not a school district responsibility, it is a city planning and zoning responsibility.

"The way we should be looking at this is what is best for the district," Dorau said.

She also suggested that if the district is going to hold onto the building a little longer while the bidding process takes its course and the building changes hands, the district should look at creative ways to use the space.

Board member Jeff McGinness said he supported either putting the building back up for bid with restrictions or sitting on it while the board decides what to do with the bidding.

Board president Marla Swesey suggested putting the building up for bid with restrictions and seeing what bids the district gets, and then considering whether to reject those bids if the board needs more time to decide. This idea gained the general consensus of most of the board members at the meeting (Patti Fields and Sarah Swisher not at this facilities meeting).

The issue is scheduled to come up again at the August 21 meeting.

Donald Baxter August 08, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Let developers trade parking for more units; this is the perfect site for some higher density.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 08, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Yes, by all means, let's have a fire sale for valuable property like the Roosevelt School property! The school district wouldn't do anything worthwhile with the extra money anyway. Did you see the scores that existing and open school buildings got on an educational adequacy, etc. scale? 52.2-60.5% was the variance in scores. Tuyet, of course, was all for removing restrictions on the use of the Roosevelt property up for sale so the district would get more money, in fact, north of $750,000 in all likelihood. She doesn't care about protecting the ravine or any other restrictions currently placed on the property. Then she was surprised that the money from the fire sale would probably go to PEPL instead of to the general fund. Meanwhile, as the school district considers a fire sale for the valuable Roosevelt property, we pay $700 a year in property taxes to pay for the schools, all money the district wastes on any given day on shoddy construction, safety violations and fines, and paying incompetent, unqualified administrators.
Donald Baxter August 08, 2012 at 01:48 PM
A lower density use will bring the school district less money and result a less pedestrian-intensive use of the property. Considering its proximity to the university, density is what's needed here which can also be accomplished while protecting the ravine--unfortunately, what's likely to happen is a very few houses with $750K price tags because of the restrictions place on the property development. The presence of the building also reduces the value of the building because of the cost of demolition (could be up to a million) or the price of mitigating hazardous materials in the building itself in the unlikely event an adaptive reuse project happens (unlikely in my opinion). There are unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences to restrictions placed on this property's use.
Julie VanDyke August 08, 2012 at 06:11 PM
"Did you see the scores that existing and open school buildings got on an educational adequacy, etc. scale?" Those were scores for a different district, out of state, not the ICCSD.
Julie VanDyke August 08, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Is it all about the money Donald? In that case, shouldn't you be advising them to hold onto it until the University finishes that new parking ramp/area on Melrose since the Roosevelt lot contains a little known easement that would allow traffic to go all the way from like Melrose Court through to Benton? That piece alone is potentially worth MUCH more than the appraisal acknowledges. That appraisal did not include what they had promised it would - and the comparisons between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, please, though both sold schools, the situations are entirely different. If the ICCSD started using Roosevelt for storage instead of paying yet more, and more, and more money to Quality Care etc., the upkeep while the land sits could pay for itself...use it as some form of community space while developing it as a nature resource center and using it for storage and selling off the easement only and they could make much more money than they could even selling it without restrictions.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Julie, I could have sworn I saw that list had Mark Twain School on it. Are you thinking of the first presenter, who was presenting data from Eau Claire, Wisconsin?
Maria Houser Conzemius August 08, 2012 at 07:00 PM
What's really sad is that among all of my Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) housing clients, mostly from Chicago, Roosevelt Ele. School was the one school where a Benton Street family actually participated in family activities, and participated enthusiastically. I would say based on the history of this family, this was the school that was succeeding the most of all the schools I visited and knew about. So of course Roosevelt was closed and Southgate School, I mean, Borlaug, is scheduled to replace it.
Donald Baxter August 08, 2012 at 09:31 PM
It's not all about money. Some people, myself included, think that density in appropriate inner city areas is a good thing. In this case, it's a good think that increases the value of this property which would also help to further support the ICCSD. Win-win.
Julie VanDyke August 09, 2012 at 04:54 AM
So Mr. Baxter, then what you're saying is that the money doesn't matter to you but the district should still sell the property for MORE money by selling it without restrictions to a developer of high density apartments squarely against the wishes of the entire neighborhood when the Iowa City Planning & Zoning commission is likely not approve that zoning use in that area which would then allow the high density apartment builder buyer to extricate themselves from the deal because they wouldn't end up getting use of the land for longer than likely to be stipulated in the contract. So, um, do you build, develop, or benefit any way from anything along the lines of the high density apartment buildings you aggressively favor Mr. Baxter? If that's not the case, what favors you to this viewpoint if it isn't the money the school district might make more of if it were to sell the land without restrictions? I don't see the win or the win in your argument.
Julie VanDyke August 09, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Maria...why would they have already done work on our district that would give us so much of the information we need when we haven't paid them anything yet? How would they have gotten the information to evaluate our schools without yet having performed the services they are selling? How many school districts of our size or larger do you think don't have a Mark Twain elementary?
Donald Baxter August 09, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Well, you wouldn't see the win-win if you didn't support persons living in more highly dense units that were less car-dependent, of course. So there's not much point in going into a circular debate with you. If you like low density car-centric development with expensive houses on larger lots, then sell the land for a price where a developer can make a profit developing those homes. Land is only worth money based on the final use--one can't create value where it doesn't exist.
Donald Baxter August 09, 2012 at 11:07 PM
What might be a better thing to do is what we've done in University Heights. Let's engage in a long, protracted battle over the appropriateness of density, place so many restrictions on a developer that they demand subsidies in the form of TIFs, appropriately reject the TIF and end the project while we all wait for the University of Iowa to take over the land which will render the opinion of anyone moot since the UI does whatever they want. Parking ramp? New dorm? Ask anyone who has property next to the University about what a good neighbor they are.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 09, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Donald Baxter, I don't know if the hillside that Roosevelt is on and the ravine next to it would support a high-density apartment complex, if that's what you're thinking of. Also, Benton Street is narrow, steep, and doesn't have paved shoulders wide enough to accommodate cyclists, and I don't think the sidewalks at the top of Benton Street hill go all the way down Benton Street to Riverside Drive. When my son lived in the area, I really worried about him ascending and descending Benton Street hill on his bicycle. Also, Riverside Drive isn't safe either. I think significant improvements would have to be made to make Benton Street appropriate for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel safely in the area. It would be nice if Riverside Drive and Highway 6 weren't so dangerous, also.
Donald Baxter August 10, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Have you ever been to San Francisco or Seattle? Building on hillsides isn't as easy as building on flat land, but the topography of this area is nothing like residential construction that happens even in flatter cities like Atlanta or Birmingham.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 10, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I grew up in Seattle and I've visited San Francisco, yes. Even if I concede your point, Donald, I'm sure care would need to be taken to protect the ravine, which is currently one of the school district's restrictions on use of the Roosevelt property. Regardless, Benton Street would need a lot of improvements to make it safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. The street is narrow, and overly large vehicles and the lack of an adequate paved shoulder make bicycling in traffic up a steep hill hazardous. Brian Bentley, one of our best MelonHead story tellers, related an incident he witnessed as he, Tom Hammer, and Dave Bender cycled up Benton Street Hill. An impatient motorist four cars behind them passed the other cars and the cyclists in a no-passing zone. The second motorist he passed at high speed was a state trooper. If only such stories always ended this well.
Donald Baxter August 10, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Benton needs those improvements regardless of what gets built. My earlier point, by the way, is if you want to maximize the value of this property the restrictions placed on developing it will change that value. What sort of single family houses can be built on this land even at the "fire sale" value of $750,000? Only houses for rich persons, especially considering the liability of removing the structures existing on the land.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 10, 2012 at 04:31 PM
True, Donald. Benton Street does need improvements regardless of what happens to the Roosevelt School property. My son's route to work is much safer now that he no longer lives at the top of Benton Street hill. The "fire sale" prices for the Roosevelt property that I was talking about were in the range of $200,000-$300,000, not $750,000+. Three-quarters of a million dollars or more is what the property would be worth if the school district removed the current restrictions on the property. Waste, mismanagement, and high administrative salaries for unqualified administrators are why I feel the $700.00 we pay per year in taxes to support the schools is a fruitless, unproductive expenditure, not that we have a choice. If there's a school bond, we will have a choice. I will vote against any bond proposed on the grounds that school district administrators are already wasting and forgetting about/failing to spend the funds they already have, like the huge SILO fund they "desperately" needed from taxpayers and have failed to spend since 2007. It's like paying more federal taxes than you can afford for millions of dollars' worth of new computers for the IRS, none of which can talk to each other or make IRS agents' work more efficient. It's like paying to build a Navy destroyer that rusts in harbor, never used. The money makes someone rich, but makes me and my family poorer. It's a waste.
Donald Baxter August 10, 2012 at 05:21 PM
There won't be much to be done if the restrictions on the property aren't removed; and it puts the ICSSD as a bad institutional citizen to sit on unused property in the middle of town. Vacant land isn't good for neighborhoods. The ICCSD shoudl dispose of this property as soon as they can get a reasonable offer based on the zoning restrictions the city has agreed to--however onerous.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 10, 2012 at 06:46 PM
There's a question in the minds of many reasonable people as to whether the school district should be in such a hurry to sell it. It's questionable whether the district should sell it at all. As Julie pointed out in a comment earlier, "shouldn't you [Donald] be advising [the district] to hold onto [the Roosevelt property] until the University finishes that new parking ramp/area on Melrose, since the Roosevelt lot contains a little known easement that would allow traffic to go all the way from like Melrose Court through to Benton? That piece alone is potentially worth MUCH more than the appraisal acknowledges." There's no sense having a fire sale on such valuable land. The price should be as high as possible, considering that the district will probably waste a good half of the money anyway.
Donald Baxter August 10, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Any time, and for whatever reason, unused land is held on to for speculative purposes, is not good for neighborhoods. Would you want a vacant house next door to you for a lengthy period of time? Not me.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 10, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Donald, you may very well be correct. The realtor has 180 days, no more, to sell the property. That's my understanding. The school district doesn't want to be in the landlord business, so they won't rent the property. I'm not sure how long the land will sit idle, but it most likely has a playground on it, so it will be a green space park, sort of, for kids to play in for the time being. Not such a bad thing.
Donald Baxter August 10, 2012 at 09:30 PM
The property, sold to a responsible developer will generate property tax for both the schools and general revenue purposes.
Maria Houser Conzemius August 10, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Donald, a responsible developer would generate property tax for both the schools and general revenue purposes unless he got a TIF from the City of Iowa City. Regardless, the school district can be counted on to waste the money anyway. I don't think the City of Iowa City would. Their managers are more accountable.
Donald Baxter August 11, 2012 at 01:00 AM
I don't see, or predict, a TIF in the future for this property.

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