Steven Wasko at 313-873-4542 or Jennifer Mrozowski at 313-873-8401
Detroit Public Schools has generated more than $4 million over the last 12 months from the sale of 11 vacant school properties. Additionally, the district has leases on 36 properties that are generating more than $1.4 million annually.
Four leases are pending, along with $1.15 million in sales. Offers are on the table and sales are being negotiated on five other properties collectively valued at more than $2.8 million.
The sales mark a distinct change in direction for the district under the direction of Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.
In the 12 months prior to March 2009, no district property had been sold or leased, and 10 of the 30 then existing tenants were in arrears.
“We are aggressively pursuing the sales and leases of buildings because we want to remove structures that have been allowed to sit as eyesores and blights on the community,” Bobb said. “We also want to spend every possible dollar on classroom needs instead of wasting them maintaining vacant buildings.”
The revenue generated from the sales and leases goes into the general fund, helping to reduce the district’s deficit. In addition to trimming the deficit, the sales help to cut costs.
“When we sell a building, DPS no longer incurs the carrying costs for that asset, so it helps reduce our overhead,” said Tammy Deane, manager of the district’s real estate department, who added that the neighborhoods near those schools also benefit. The old Burton International School, for example, has been turned into a movie theater that shows independent films.
“The plan is that the buildings will be renovated by the new owners and returned to uses that, in many cases, will benefit the immediate community,” Deane said.
Since March 2009, the district increased the number of tenants and followed through with three evictions. The real estate department has since collected more than $1.4 million in lease revenue and back rent.
The department also collected close to $300,000 in back payments for utilities that had not been transferred out of the district’s name, as required by lease agreements. The district also pursued and received close to $250,000 in credits due to incorrect billing for utilities.
In some cases, sales documents include language that requires renovations to begin within a specific time frame to prevent blight from taking hold in the neighborhoods.
The buyers represent a variety of interests, including the City of Detroit, post secondary education, and various groups providing community services.
Among the buildings sold are the Atkinson Elementary, Cooper Elementary, Yost Academy, the old Bates Academy and Burton International.
Seventy-three properties are still for sale. For information on those properties, visit the district’s real estate website at http://www.detroit.k12.mi.us/admin/operations/real_estate/, or call (313) 873-4941.