NEWARK – The Newark Board of Education will shortly decide whether to purchase the former State Farm Insurance building and land on Granville Road.
It will be nearly 90 days before the board meeting on May 10th, which is the time for the district to make its decision.
During a community forum on Thursday in the Newark High School Auditorium, Newark City Schools disaggregated the facts and figures that were being put together about the opportunities for the district. The pricing is $ 2.3 million for over 350,000 square feet. But there would be no need to ask the community for additional money and the project would pay off on its own, said District Treasurer Julio Valladares.
“It would cost between $ 8 million and $ 9 million to expand an existing facility to meet our needs,” said Superintendent David Lewis. “It would cost $ 11 million to $ 12 million to build a stand-alone facility.”
Lewis said the main motivation in finding the property was to centralize preschool units in Newark, relocate the digital academy and technology division, and free up classrooms in two elementary schools. The space in the State Farm building would also be filled through public and private partnerships. Valladares said he had already received calls expressing an interest in leasing and he was doing a similar school project when he was treasurer of the Gahanna Jefferson schools.
The building would also provide future educational opportunities through STEM / STEAM, IT, early childhood, apprenticeship training and job development. “We could even have a landscaping / maintenance program with students taking care of the facility,” said Lewis.
The 19 preschool classes would occupy 30,000 square feet, of which 10,000 square feet for digital growth and 5,000 square feet for the technology department. Approximately 150,000 square feet of space could be used for leasing opportunities. “There is potential for a restaurant and a cafeteria,” said Lewis. “The kitchen is first class.”
According to Valladares, the building is in good shape, although roof repairs will be required over the next 10 years. A national company, BBG, valued the property over a period of 15 days. There is no asbestos or lead-based paint, and the exterior generators, transformers, sump pumps, and plumbing are all in good condition.
The district could break even within nine years by borrowing for permanent improvement funds, repaying existing bonds for savings, building public / private partnerships, and taking advantage of the flexibility of district real estate.
The Newark Digital Academy property could sell for $ 600,000 and land on Deo Drive for $ 500,000. “We had 41 aces on Burch Drive that were auctioned for $ 269,000,” Valladares said.
Members of the school board said buying the property was the best financial option.
“You know me as the penny pincher in the group and this is the one who makes the most financial sense,” said Vice President Tom Bline. “As an accountant, it’s pretty exciting. I think this building is worth a lot more than $ 2.3 million and I see no way we’re going to lose on it.”
“This is an opportunity for our preschoolers and students with special needs that we need to move to other locations,” said Board Member Tim Carr. “We need the space and this is the least financial challenge of the other options we’ve had. And we’re not using any money from the general fund.”
The district also investigated the purchase of the downtown Advocate building. One mother expressed concern that not all Newark families would get access because the State Farm property is a little further away. “Are we going to have preschoolers walking back and forth on a bus for an hour?” She said.
A district official replied that this would provide a central location rather than transporting students around town as it currently does.
The district’s preschool program currently includes three units each at Hillview Elementary, Cherry Valley Elementary, and Flying Colors, and one unit at Head Start.
President Beverly Niccum noted that the number of preschoolers was growing. “It is important to have a preschool to prepare students for K-12, and we are developing programs for even younger students,” she said. “We have to expand as the community grows. It is a community need and a mandate from the federal government.”
“This is a benefit not only for our preschoolers and students with special needs, but also for the rest of the school district,” said board member Mike Blowers.
One parishioner said he worked at State Farm for 39 years and retired 10 years ago.
“At one time we had 1,500 people in this building and a lot of love and attention was put into this building,” he said. “I appreciate your looking into this. I roughly fell hearing the price of this building. It’s a real value.”
Lewis said if the district buys the property, the renovation and transition won’t happen overnight. “It will take time,” he admitted. “It can take a few years for our vision to materialize.”
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