A Farmington area real estate professional has given Farmington Public Schools officials one more option to consider for the disposition of Harrison High School.
Speaking at a Tuesday Building and Sites subcommittee meeting, Thomas Duke vice president Dan Blugerman said that when he saw a City of Farmington Hills proposal to purchase the school for $1 and convert it into a state-of-the-art community center, he “started reacting.”
“I advocate for owners and what is best for the particular owner,” he said. “The priority for the school district is to provide maximum benefit for students.”
The city’s plan includes the purchase of the building and the 40-acre property, which is largely taken up with ball fields. While it would be nice to have those fields, Blugerman pointed out, Michigan’s climate prevents their use for much of the year.
He suggested splitting the property, selling 20 acres to the city with the building and opening the other 20 acres for a “creative” project that could bring “sustainable long-term value to the community.” Blugerman suggested a multi-generational or senior living project could connect with the proposed community center.
“There’s some ways to put some nice thoughtful use into making a wonderful project that would be of great use to the community and not giving it away,” he said.
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Blugerman offered to bring in a “limited number of qualified developers” to look at the property. He told officials that he hadn’t had any conversations with the City of Farmington Hills, but believes the proposal could dovetail with the community center plan.
“I didn’t want to start that until I got some direction from you all,” he said. “I thought that was too preliminary.”
Officials adjourned the committee meeting to review a related attorney-client letter in closed session. When they returned, Executive Director of PreK-12 Instructional Support Services Jon Manier presented an administrative recommendation for district-wide facilities use:
- Vacate and sell the Harrison High School property
- Expand and renovate Alameda Early Childhood Center to accommodate all early childhood programs
- Remodel Farmington Community School on Shiawassee for use as administrative offices
- Vacate and sell the Lewis Schulman Administrative Center, Maxfield Education Center and transportation properties, all on Raphael between Shiawawssee and 10 Mile Road.
- Remodel the Highmeadow Common Campus building (east of Orchard Lake and north of 12 Mile Road) for use as Farmington Central High School and storage
Manier said the administrative team recommended against usingHarrison’s third floor, an option presented in previous facility reviews. He said the information technology department could be housed at East Middle School, provided that area could be completely separated from students.
A benefit of selling all of the administrative properties, he added, is that fits with the City of Farmington’s Master Plan and would likely bring new students into the district. To relocate transportation services, Manier said, the district would either purchase property or arrange a land trade with the developer who purchases the property.
Retaining Highmeadow, Manier said, would not only provide space for the district’s alternative high school but also a “relief valve” if the district needs more space for students in the future.
Trustees Mark Przeslawski and Angie Smith both expressed concern over moving Farmington Central students to Highmeadow, because it could mean moving them again if the school is needed in the future. In addition, Smith said students have an open lunch, and their off-campus alternatives would be limited.
Board members will continue to discuss alternatives but, as president David Turner pointed out, are constrained by time. In order to issue bonds and start the summer construction bidding process, officials should make their choices by mid-February, bond counsel Amanda Van Dusen of Miller Canfield said at a previous meeting.
“At some point we’re going to need to make a decision,” Turner said, “and we’re going to miss some great things by making that decision.”