Consolidating Dallas ISD's administrative departments, currently sprawled across 32 buildings in various states of disrepair, is a no-brainer. Putting them in a $13 million downtown office tower, as district administrators are proposing, is probably as good an option as any.
Trustees just aren't sure that doing so one week after finding the property on the Internet is such a good idea.
"I did a Google search for buildings larger than 300,000 square feet, and there were only two that were on the market," DISD CFO James Terry explained to the board on Thursday night. With 350,000 square feet, the tower at 1910 Pacific Ave. was the cheapest.
Terry wasn't asking trustees to approve the purchase of the building, just $200,000 in earnest money to allow the district to perform due diligence and negotiate with the current owner, but that did little to quell the skepticism of five of the nine board members.
Pressed by a skeptical Carla Ranger on the "impetus of the Google search," Terry cited a weeks-old facilities assessment showing administrative buildings are in worse shape than schools and in need of more than $219 million in repairs.
Given the current real estate market, Terry advised that trustees strike while the iron is hot.
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"If we were to build a building of that type from the scratch down, you're talking in the neighborhood of something over $90 million dollars," he said. "No, we're not in a recession but we just came out of a recession, and the assessed value of property was [up] 2 percent [last year], the current fiscal year was 5 percent, and I predict the increase in the assessed value will continue to rise. The opportunity that I perceive now will not be available to you again until the next downturn or the next cycle."
But again: Google. Last week.
"I feel like this is getting a bit ahead of ourselves," trustee Elizabeth Jones said. There should be a study fully evaluating options for addressing the woeful state of the district's administrative offices. The board postponed a decision on the $200,000 in earnest money until Superintendent Mike Miles gives them a full briefing.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.