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TPS could soon close deals to offload two former school sites

Posted By: The Blade on October 23, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.


Long before the board approved formal negotiations in August, Toledo Public Schools administrators had been negotiating to sell two former school properties, emails obtained by The Blade show.

Email records from the district show Goodwill Industries and Connecting Kids to Meals representatives expressed interest in the properties as early as January. Goodwill officials expressed interest in purchasing the Ryder property at 3117 Nebraska Ave., and Connecting Kids to Meals was interested in the Whitney site at 10 17th St.

The sale of the Nebraska Avenue property has been complicated by a neighborhood organization that has expressed interest in the site following the news that the school district is willing to sell it.

Emails show Goodwill Chief Financial Officer Kellie Schlachter was hoping to solidify the deal to her board by the group’s Sept. 23 meeting. But Toledo Public Schools assistant superintendent Jim Gant said in an email that members of another group, the Secor Gardens Community, raised concerns about the sale. A meeting was then scheduled between Mr. Gant and the Gardens Community members on Oct. 12.

“I met with members of the Secor Gardens Community Group, and they would like the property to become a neighborhood park,” Mr. Gant wrote Friday in an email to The Blade. “TPS is not aware of other organizations/groups interested in the property.”

Representatives from the Secor Gardens Community Group could not be reached for comment.

Goodwill likewise contacted the district in January for the Ryder property, as it was looking at that time to move its distribution center nearby to 3145 Nebraska Ave.

Prior to acquiring that property in May near the Ryder property, Ms. Schlachter emailed Mr. Gant that Goodwill was willing to offer $165,000 for the district’s land. That amount would increase to $180,000 by Sept. 2.

If the sale goes through, David Takats, chief mission officer for Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio, previously said Goodwill officials are interested in the vacant Ryder property for possible expansion sometime in the future.

He said Thursday no progress has been made, while Mr. Gant wrote Friday that he anticipates the matter will be resolved before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, to progress with the land deals before the end of the year, both nonprofits will need to overcome some of the district’s stipulations that were laid out in the school board’s August resolution. Those include the ability to have the property revert back to the district if officials believe it’s needed because of increased enrollment and the right to all financial proceeds from any subsequent sale of the properties.

Emails show these stipulations were initially unknown to Ms. Schlachter prior to The Blade’s Oct. 4 story, and she messaged Mr. Gant that same day stating those conditions were unacceptable.

“Please advise if this is something that will need to be agreed to in order to purchase the property,” she wrote. “If the answer is yes then we cannot move forward.”

Wendi Huntley, president of Connecting Kids to Meals, asked Mr. Gant in early January about the Whitney property and by June specified that her understanding was that the land could essentially be donated to her organization.

While Ms. Huntley said earlier this month that there are no specific plans for the vacant land, emails obtained by The Blade show that the organization has decided on how it will be used.

In a letter emailed to Mr. Gant, she states the vision for the property is to construct a warehouse facility to house a cooler and freezer, as well as provide more program space. The land would also provide more parking.

Her organization is also partnering with Cherry Street Mission Ministries, which she writes is seeking to acquire the property at the corner of Monroe and 14th streets “in order to replace the deteriorating residential facilities that house men and women in other neighborhoods.”

Ms. Huntley said Thursday all of those plans rest on whether she can tap into American Rescue Plan Act funding and other financial resources so her organization can expand. And if she can convince Toledo Public Schools to donate the Whitney property, then all the better.

“Because that means we can use our money for kids’ meals,” she said. “If we have to buy it, we will have to figure it out. Again, I am putting my desires out there hoping that can work.”

Both Whitney and Ryder sites were part of a slew of schools that were closed in the early-to-mid-2000s as part of the district’s effort to save money following years of enrollment drops. This occurred around the same time as the Ohio School Facilities Commission approved more than $600 million in state funds for an almost $800 million plan for the district to demolish and replace some school buildings and permanently destroy others.

Those school buildings are now long gone, and Mr. Gant said in August that both properties aren’t being utilized. He said changing ownership for a small fee would save the district between $10,000 and $20,000 a year in maintenance costs stemming from mowing and clearing sidewalks.

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