Today, at 2pm, new school superintendent Dr. William Hite held a press conference detailing a list of 37 Philadelphia Public Schools that he will recommend to close their doors for good at the end of the current school year. These recommended closures are due to aging facilities and huge under-enrollment numbers in numerous District schools. It’s certain that many schools will have active and vocal community members fighting to keep them open, but it’s more than likely that most of the schools recommended for closure will indeed shut down in June.
As you can see, many of the schools on the list are located in North Philadelphia, with other schools scattered among other neighborhoods farther out from Center City. Of interest to us today are the schools a little closer in to Center City, among them:
– Smith at 1900 Wharton St.
– Bok at 9th & Mifflin
– Vare at Moyamensing & Morris
– Wilson at 46th & Woodland
– University City at 36th & Filbert
– Robeson at 42nd & Ludlow
– Douglas at Huntington & Edgemont
Our guess would be that all of the schools that close down will be sold, with some going to Charter or Private School operators and others going to developers. Considering the situations at Annunciation BVM and the old West Philly High, it’s apparent that there is an appetite out there among developers to do adaptive reuse of old school buildings for residential or mixed-use purposes. And with the growth of Charter Schools in Philadelphia, there should be no shortage of bidders for that use as well.
For certain, it will be at least a few years before anything really gets underway, as the school district will first have to go through the arduous process of determining which schools will actually close, and then get to the difficult task of actually selling off the properties. But in a couple of years, we could be seeing several adaptive reuse projects get off the ground at the same time at these old school buildings. None of this will, of course, make it up to communities that are losing their local neighborhood educational institutions, but hopefully this future redevelopment will offer other benefits to their surrounding neighborhoods, and at the very least preserve a symbol of the schools that were once inside the buildings.
But no matter how you slice it, it’s going to be a difficult year (and years) ahead for the Philadelphia School District. Best of luck, Dr. Hite.