Schultz school purchase hinges on tax credits

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When Jackson developer Chad Hartle walks through the nearly century-old Schultz School he sees far more than an underused former high school. He envisions the brick building as a perfect home for senior citizens.

In closed session Monday night the Cape Girardeau Board of Education agreed to sell the building and property at 101 S. Pacific St. to Hartle for $1.7 million. The sale is contingent upon Hartle's company, RCH Development Inc., receiving state tax credits from the Missouri Housing Development Commission by Jan. 31, school officials said.

Hartle is also trying to secure historic preservation tax credits.

Cape Girardeau real estate broker Tom M. Meyer, who negotiated the sale, said the goal would be to preserve the building's exterior while transforming the interior into apartments."That is going to be a big plus for that whole neighborhood," he said. "It will have a ripple effect that will increase property values."

Hartle envisions creating 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments in the building. Classrooms, he said, are perfectly configured for apartments."With the wide hallways and the common areas, it is just a good fit for senior housing," Hartle said.

The building also has a modern elevator, an essential feature for senior-citizen housing, he said.

'Amazingly sound'

"It is an amazingly sound structure," said Hartle as he walked with Meyer along a hallway on the vacant third floor of the building Tuesday afternoon.

The Jackson developer estimates the project will cost about $16 million. He's not sure yet about the total amount of tax credits he'll seek.

Over the years Hartle has developed 40 housing projects in 20 cities in Missouri and Illinois. The majority have been senior-citizen housing.

Hartle will have plenty of time to submit an application for tax credits to the Missouri Housing Development Commission. The commission approves tax credits for projects annually. The latest cycle has passed. Hartle said it could be January before the commission approves tax credits for another round of projects.

Cape Girardeau school officials say that will give them time to decide where to relocate the district's Alternative Education Center. The center, currently at Schultz School, serves about 100 at-risk students who were in jeopardy of failing in the district's traditional schools as a result of falling behind in their academic work, disillusionment with school and/or disciplinary problems.

The center's students include those taking daytime classes, attending an after-school program or serving short-term suspensions from the middle, junior and senior high schools.

Superintendent Dr. David Scala said some of the proceeds from the sale could be used to build a new alternative education center. But Patrick Morgan, executive director of administrative services for the school district, said school officials will first look at space in existing buildings. One possible site is the central administrative building, formerly the district's vocational school. Morgan has said that structure is bigger than the district needs for central offices.

School officials are putting together a facilities plan for the whole district. Morgan said the plan will include possible relocation options for the alternative school and should be presented to the school board by May.

Morgan said he expects the alternative school to operate in Schultz School through the next school year.

The Cape Girardeau Police Department has a satellite office in the former library of the old school building. But only four officers operate out of that space.

Police chief Carl Kinnison said the city already was planning to relocate those officers this summer into a modular unit to be erected behind the police station.

Schultz School opened in October 1915 as the district's high school. It was expanded in 1920 and 1941. In 1953 the building was remodeled as a junior high school. In 1965, the district turned it into a seventh-grade center.

The district put Schultz on the market after the opening of the new Central High School and a districtwide grade reconfiguration.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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