Future of Perkins Middle School Decided

Future of Perkins Middle School Decided
Posted on 01/30/2018
Image of Perkins Middle SchoolAPS, city partner on a plan

(Courtesy Doug Livingston, Ohio.com/Akron Beacon Journal)

The city, county and school district plan to swap public parking lots, school sites and infrastructure work to boost downtown business and set the stage for Akron’s largest new private housing development in decades.

The deal brings together Akron city and Summit County governments, which will trade properties with Akron Public Schools to fill empty downtown buildings and knock down Perkins Middle School to make room for a development of 90 single-family homes in West Akron.

City leaders see the complex deal, which involves the transfer of at least six properties and a city discount on work completed for the county at the Firestone Business Park, as a win for both downtown development and neighborhoods. They’re hoping it appeases critics who see development in Akron as a zero sum game, with resources gobbled by downtown projects or spread too thinly in the community.

Each of the three public bodies must agree to the “collaborative deal.” The proposal was introduced at County Council on Monday.

City Council will take a week to consider the plan after many heard about it for the first time Monday. Council members Jeff Fusco, who chairs the planning committee, as well as President Margo Sommerville and Councilman Russ Neal, whose West Akron city ward would see the new housing, were briefed ahead of the public meeting Monday.

The city said it may take up to 90 days to transfer the properties, which include Perkins Middle School, the old Crosby Elementary site, and parking lots beside the current and proposed school administration building. When the swaps are complete, the United Way of Summit County would move into the Sojourner Truth Building on High Street, hiring more staff and pumping life into an empty building across from downtown coffee shops and night life.

The city of Akron would acquire the 11-acre Perkins Middle School property in West Akron and a smaller lot near St. Vincent-St. Mary High School that formerly held Crosby Elementary School.

The plan is for developer Alpha Phi Alpha Homes Inc. to build 90 single-family houses after the school is demolished, perhaps later this year. The homes would sell for $175,000 to $200,000, with the value of the new homes exempted from property taxes for 15 years under Akron’s recently passed residential tax abatement.

Whether the city will get paid per lot or in one lump sum from Alpha Phi Alpha Homes will be worked out in a contract the mayor hopes to bring to City Council in May or June.

The project would be Akron’s largest development of new homes not for low-income residents since Coventry Crossing and High Hampton were developed in the late 1990s.

City Planner Jason Segedy, who grew up and lives not far from old Perkins Middle School, said the site is poised for residential development with an expansion at FirstEnergy on Mull Avenue, access to the highway nearby, and close proximity to shopping and eating in downtown, Wallhaven and Highland Square.

The lot is bordered by Hawkins Avenue to the east, Mull Avenue to the north and J. Edward Good Golf Park to the south and west. Existing dead-end streets would be connected, running along the edge of the golf course, offering backyard views of fairways.

“The most preferable units” would be located on the golf course itself, Alpha Phi Alpha Homes Executive Director Tom Fuller told Akron City Council.

Preferred partner

The city is set on hiring Alpha Phi Alpha, a housing agency that also oversees low-income units in Akron. There’s no intention to seek bids from other developers, said James Hardy, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan’s chief of staff. “We want to work with Alpha Phi Alpha.”

“It’s a big enough site to make the [proposed]neighborhood feel organic and not just spec houses,” Segedy said, pointing to a development concept that chops the land into 90 densely packed lots. Each lot would have to be about a tenth of an acre to fit with extended roadways and a small park near the roundabout at Mull and Hawkins Avenues.

Blueprint

Here’s how the broader deal would play out:

Akron Public Schools would move from its current location at 70 N. Broadway to 10 N. Main St., which currently houses SummaCare. The school parking lot directly south of the old administration building would be transferred to Summit County, which owns the Sojourner Truth Building next door.

That would provide enough parking for the United Way to move into and expand its operations at the Sojourner Truth Building, which previously housed some county Job and Family Services offices.

“It’s a unique opportunity to put our stake in the ground in a historic building in downtown,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way. Mullen added that the agency will add between seven and 15 full-time staff once moved in, then sell its current headquarters at 90 N. Prospect St. The new location is large enough to house all annual events, which are typically staged elsewhere.

The county, having secured a new tenant, would give the school system a parking lot to the east of the current administration building, directly across N. Broadway St.

The city would then transfer a massive parking lot around 10 N. Main St. to the school district. This would allow the school district to consolidate not only administrative staff but also professional development and support crews at the Conrad C. Ott Building at 65 Steiner Ave.

City discount

Mark Williamson, spokesman for Akron Public Schools, said there is no planned use for the old administration building, built in 1916, or the Ott Building, built in 1930.

Per Ohio law, land swaps among local governments should be “mutually beneficial.” To balance this complicated deal between the city, county and school system, Akron is giving Summit County a $200,000 discount on public infrastructure improvements at the Firestone Business Park complex.

Image of Future Home of Akron Public SchoolsImage of Akron Public Schools Administration BuildingImage of Future Home of Akron Public SchoolsImage of Map of Property Swap
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