University looks to buy local school

Temple is interested in purchasing the property of the shuttered William Penn High School as part of a plan by the School District of Philadelphia to raise $61 million from abandoned properties to fund its financial shortfalls.

Jim Creedon, senior vice president for construction, facilities and operations confirmed the university sent a letter inquiring about purchasing the property, which sits on the corner of Broad and Master streets.

The five-acre property has a 2014 certified market value of $32.5 million, according to city property assessment records.

William Penn, a 475,000-square-foot building, was closed by the district in 2010 and its 641 students were moved into surrounding schools.

Creedon denied the university is planning to use the property for an off-campus football stadium, despite some speculation.

“I’m sure the football speculation is hot and heavy,” Creedon said. “But whoever is saying that is coming to a lot of conclusions.”

Any future decisions regarding the property should it be sold to the university would be developed as part of Visualize Temple, the university’s next master plan being organized by Smith Group JJR. The plan is expected to evaluate the footprint of Main Campus and include the addition of several new buildings, including a new library.

Creedon said the school administration began discussing the property’s size and condition between January and February of this year, with plans to submit an inquiry to the school district coming in June.

As of Friday, Creedon said the university had not received a response from the school district, but said the recent backing of Mayor Nutter in the district’s property sale proposal left the university with high hopes moving forward.

On Oct. 30, Mayor Nutter agreed to the district’s proposal to sell $61 million worth of its more than 30 vacant properties at a press conference at City Hall. The mayor had previously promised $50 million of funding to the district this year, which will be paid off by the property sales, with the additional $11 million covering funds already budgeted from building sales by the district, which faces a $304 million budget deficit.

The Inquirer reported last week that a Washington-based real estate firm offered to buy all of the district’s vacant properties for a lump sum of $100 million. However, district officials told the paper they were hesitant toward selling to one buyer.

In 2008, the school district sold the ground of the shuttered John Wanamaker Middle School to a group comprised of the Goldenberg Group developing firm and the Bright Hope Baptist Church for $10.75 million. The Temple News reported earlier this year that the university submitted a losing bid on the property.

According to the Inquirer article, Drexel is also interested in the district’s plan to sell property.

The school district did not respond to requests for comment by time of press.

John Moritz can be reached at john.moritz@temple.edu  or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU. 

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