GARY — The indebted Gary Community School Corp. is negotiating the sale of five district properties with bids bringing a possible $480,000 to the corporation.
Leonard Moody, chief financial officer for the district, said the school corporation has accepted initial bids for the five properties, home to four closed schools and the district’s former administrative office building.
To complete the sales, Moody said, Gary Community School Corp. is seeking a commitment from its bidders to demolish existing structures on the properties within six months of the purchase.
He said the district is also asking bidders bringing businesses to these properties to put on a community job fair.
“We’re just trying to be a good neighbor,” Moody said. “A better neighbor than we have been, and get these properties taken care of.”
Gary schools came to a $320,000 settlement with the Internal Revenue Service in April removing more than $8 million of federal debt and lifting liens that prevented sale of district-owned properties.
Five properties are first of 33 put on the market
The five properties with initial bids are the first of 33 put on the market by the district several months ago.
Moody said while the district has accepted initial offers, Gary schools will continue to negotiate counteroffers.
“We certainly think some of these properties might generate a higher price,” he said.
The district received its highest bid of $160,000 from the Gary Housing Authority for the Ernie Pyle Elementary School property.
The housing authority's plans for the space include 25 to 50 single-family homes serving an estimated 81 to 162 residents. The homes will include affordable and market-rate housing.
Indiana American Water bid $150,000 for the district's Jefferson Elementary School property with plans to improve and expand its nearby Borman Park water treatment plant.
The district also accepted two $35,000 bids — one for the George Washington Carver Elementary School and the other for the former Gary Community School Corp. administration office at 620 E. 10th Place.
Henry Leong, managing member of Little Calumet Greenspace LLC, placed the Carver Elementary bid with plans to raze the school and develop a logistics complex on the site.
The administration office was bid on by Richardson Disposal, which plans to expand its operations on Gary's far west side by opening a second location on the school district's property.
The city of Gary also made a $100,000 bid earlier this year on the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School property, which the city intends to turn into affordable housing.
Gary schools declined two additional bids, including a $100,000 offer for the David O. Duncan Elementary School property and a $75,000 offer for the Nobel Elementary School property.
Moody said the district lost touch with Patheon Corp., which bid on the Duncan Elementary property with the intention of creating a mixed-use development with five townhouses, offices and a warehouse.
He said the district scrapped plans to negotiate the Nobel Elementary property following community opposition to First Metro Development, which proposed to develop affordable housing and commercial retail stores on the site.
“The bidder for that property owns a number of properties in the area and those sat undeveloped for a long period of time,” Moody said. “The community was against it.”
The school corporation has consulted with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson on each of the bids. Moody said the district is open to all developers who can help maximize revenue and improve the neighborhoods where each of the properties are located.
He said he sees finally selling the school property as an opportunity to reduce the risk of injury and crime attracted by the vacant spaces.