A complicated real estate deal will allow Emily Griffith Technical College and its companion high school, a new elementary charter school and the district’s central offices to move into a refurbished building downtown.
Denver Public Schools and city officials today officially announced the consolidation of the three entities, including the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, into the 13-floor building at 1860 Lincoln St.
The real estate deal will go to the school board Dec. 20.
Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Mayor Michael Hancock described the deal as a major boost to the vitality of the city’s core that could also save the district between $5 and $15 million over the next five years through increased efficiencies.
“Downtown will finally have its elementary school,” Hancock said to claps as the deal was announced in a classroom at Emily Griffith’s decades-old current campus at 1250 Welton St. “We heard loud and clear, ‘Bring an elementary school downtown.’”
Hancock also said the real estate shuffle provides an “upgraded facility for the seriously overcrowded Emily Griffith.”
“To the people of Denver – you helped this happen,” Hancock said, referring to the $466 DPS bond issue passed last month.
Hancock pointed out that while the Emily Griffith building needs work, it also has the benefit of location, location, location for a prospective buyer since it is located next to the Colorado Convention Center.
The school district has already signed a contract to buy the vacant office building at 1860 Lincoln St. and renovate it to serve district administrators, teachers and students.
Boasberg said the district is using money designated in the 2012 bond to purchase the building. Bond documents call for $24.9 million to be spent on Emily Griffith, a school founded nearly a century ago to provide education to anyone who wanted it – regardless of age or station in life. The asking price of the building on Lincoln is $19.3 million.
Emily Griffith open to all
Emily Griffith today offers certificates in more than 50 professional and technical fields, from welding to cooking. The new location is close to mass transit stops, which is a key benefit, backers of the move say. The college serves about 8,500 students per year, its completion rate averages 79 percent and 80 percent of its students are placed in jobs or further education upon completion of a program, said the school’s executive director.
“We have been looking for a location that would better serve our instructional programming needs,” said Jeff Barratt, Emily Griffith Technical College executive director. “I think our boilers were created at the same time the Titanic’s boilers were created.”
Parents who choose to live and work downtown are also thrilled at the prospect of a 400-student elementary school opening in the heart of downtown, supporters say.
The board approved the expeditionary school’s charter in June, and it is slated to open in the fall, making it the first priority in terms of renovating the building on Lincoln. Cyndi Kahn, a community organizer who helped found the school, said the school aims to be economically diverse and take full advantage of the learning opportunities available to students downtown.
Downtown Denver Partnership President and CEO Tamara Door said the school has been a priority for parents who live and work in the urban core.
“This is a fabulous opportunity for all of these children, in addition to a [an opportunity] for the downtown Denver business community to envelop the school with support and mentorship – and make them a part of the downtown community,” Door said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The other renovations and moves will happen over the next 18 months.
900 Grant to be put on market – again
The plan also will mean changes for district buildings at 900 and 780 Grant St. Boasberg said when 900 Grant St. – a dated building that will need plenty of TLC for a new occupant – was listed for sale a few years ago there was a lot of interest.
“As the market begins to come back we expect to see very considerable interest,” Boasberg said. “We’ve seen residential development in the area south of the Capitol.”
DPS Chief Operating Officer David Suppes that the building was not sold the first time around because of concerns that popped up over a plan to move district staff to Manual High School. The district’s Contemporary Learning Academy, a school for students who have struggled in other settings, is slated to move into 780 Grant St., which now houses DPS’ technology services.
The deal also allows DPS to vacate its building at 1330 Fox St., which may house a new center for victims of domestic violence. In addition, district support staff now working at the closed Del Pueblo school will move to Lincoln St. – making space for the Girls Athletic Leadership School (GALS) to move to Del Pueblo in the fall of 2013.
DPS plans to fund the renovation of 1860 Lincoln St. through 2012 bond sale proceeds and short-term financing that will be repaid by the “sales of existing DPS buildings vacated through this plan,” according to a news release.
Boasberg also estimate the move will result in $1 million annual savings in operational costs, savings that can be used to hire more teachers and support schools.
“Financially, this is an opportunity for the district to generate very significant savings,” Boasberg said.