MPS has moved a step closer to selling its vacant Malcolm X school building to a developer. A Common Council committee gave the nod Wednesday.
The issue has gotten quite a bit of attention in recent times, because a private school has wanted to buy the building.
Under the MPS plan, the district would sell the old Malcolm X Academy to a developer for two million dollars. The developer would convert the property into housing and commercial space, along with updated classrooms. MPS would buy back the class space to start a new International Bacheloreate program. The committee spent much of Wednesday morning, questioning the details, until Ald. Willie Wade called for a vote. He says the panel was not conducting business as usual, because school voucher supporters criticize MPS for refusing to sell the building to St. Marcus School.
“MPS is a property owner. They have rights. They can deal with whom they want to deal with. We’re lucky and fortunate that we’re getting this quality of a project in this part of town to serve this neighborhood, to serve our kids in this city. We’re getting a tax base from it that we weren’t getting before. We got a minority developer, I mean, there’s a whole lot of plusses in this,” Wade says.
Wade says the committee and MPS are not trying to jump ahead of the state. Some legislators want to require MPS to sell vacant property to other educational entities. According to Wade, the developer in this case had been talking with city leaders long before St. Marcus expressed interest in the school building.
The only committee member to vote against the MPS plan Wednesday was Ald. Jim Bohl.
“MPS should be able to control its destination at this location, I am just not fully comfortable with all the details to move forward right now, today,” Bohl says.
Financial details, such as what happens if the developer cannot get the tax credits necessary to make the project work.
Another criticism, this one from Ald. Bob Bauman, is the fact MPS would award the project to a developer – without a competitive bidding process.
“But I will give the benefit of the doubt to MPS. They’ve exercised their best judgment; they think this is the best deal they can come up with; their goals are laudable; I support them entirely,” Bauman says.
The committee added what members called cost controls to the plan, to protect taxpayers – then sent it to the full Common Council.