Greenfield district approves sale of old school

Deal depends on rezoning effort and additional developer acquisitions

Feb. 11, 2014

Greenfield — After gaining authorization through a special meeting of electors earlier in the evening, the Greenfield School Board decided Monday to sell district property once used as a school and later an administrative center.

What the future holds for the property and even the final sale price are uncertain at this point as the buyer plans for an unspecified redevelopment.

The former Chapman School at 8500 W. Chapman Ave. will be sold for $2.5 million to $3.1 million, depending on when the sale finally closes. The sale would be contingent on city approval of rezoning to allow redevelopment and the buyer's ability to acquire other nearby properties.

Those two factors could impact the timing of the sale and thus the final prize. But all that could take months or even a couple of years, school officials said. The longer it takes, the higher the price will be, though within the range agreed upon by the Greenfield School District.

Speculation on plans

The buyer is BR Acquisitions of Wisconsin LLC, headed by developer Brian Riordan. Money won't change hand until all the contingencies are met and the sale has closed.

School officials say they don't know what Riordan has in mind for the property, but speculated that he would want to raze the former school.

While the school zoning is institutional, the city land-use plan calls for planned mixed use, Chuck Erickson, economic development and planning director, said Tuesday.

"That's our broadest category," Erickson noted.

Given that Riordan specializes in commercial development, Erickson said retail or offices are probably what the developer has in mind.

Riordan could not be reached for comment.

Right price for district

Regardless, the district should be satisfied with terms of the sale, even if it doesn't match a more generous proposal that fell through years earlier, district officials said.

"The board feels we're getting a decent price," School Board President Bruce Bailey said.

The sale price is higher than the $1.9 million appraisal done a few months ago, said William Taibl, an attorney assisting the board with the sale. And it's the best of a number of proposals received over the last two years, he added.

But, board member Cathy Walsh noted, "It's not going to be what we were offered several years ago."

According to the district's website, which includes a press release of the deal at the time, the School Board approved a $6.1 million sale to Continental Properties in January 2009. The sale was tied to the district's decision to move its administrative offices to the Greenfield High School campus as part of a major remodeling project. However, the sale eventually fell through.

Regardless, Walsh said she wants to see the Chapman property on the tax rolls as quickly as possible so the sale proceeds can be applied to other school needs.

Outdated property

The only concern raised at the electors meeting this week was whether the Chapman property could be used instead to help relieve overcrowding at the Greenfield Middle School.

But Walsh said it would probably cost millions to put the vacant school back into service.

Another problem is that most of the classrooms were converted into district administrative offices in 1990, Walsh said.

Speakers at the electors meeting also called for the property not be used for tax-exempt purposes. School officials supported that and acknowledged that city officials strongly support a tax-paying development.

Also on Monday, the electors gave the board permission for a land swap with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at the Chapman School property.

The schools will give the DOT nearly an acre of land that is part of the Chapman property in return for 2.3 acres from the DOT bordering the school land. Transportation officials want the thin slices of property si it can widen the off-ramp of Interstate 894 at 84th Street. School officials want the DOT property for stormwater control to enhance the development potential of the Chapman property.

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