Old HISD building center of property fight

July 16, 2013 2:42:10 AM PDT
An old HISD building is at the center of a new fight over the property.

The land is on the northwest corner of Memorial Drive and Shepherd, adjacent to Saint Thomas High School.

HISD has owned this property and used it for a school for decades. It's currently a magnet, The High School for Law Enforcement And Criminal Justice. With plans to relocate and sell the land, both its adjoining neighbors want it.

Last year, 710 students explored careers in law enforcement and criminal justice from inside the walls of the high school on Dickson Street. It's been at the same location for 32 years. Now its days are numbered, and two potential buyers have worked the numbers.

"We look at this as a great investment, a great piece of real estate," said Alison Malkhassian with AV Dickson Street.

"The purpose of that land should retain and remain with education," St. Thomas High School principal Father Patrick Fulton said.

St. Thomas High School to the south wants the 11 acres for additional classroom space and athletic fields. AV Dickson Street -- an investment group headed by Malkhassian, whose company Alara Ventures also owns Bayou Park Apartments right next to the property -- haven't finalized plans but you do the math.

St. Thomas ' bid comes in at $42 million. The investment group proposes $41 million. But both would require HISD to pay rent to whomever wins the bidding war for the time it takes to build a new school somewhere else.

St. Thomas' rent bid is higher, and after about two years of rent payment, the investment group's plan would actually be cheaper for HISD.

"Over a five-year period, it is absolutely a better bid," Malkhassian said.

But St. Thomas, an all-boys Catholic high school, hopes HISD takes into account the original mission for the land -- education and their commitment to the community despite the fact that as a non-profit they would never pay property taxes.

"We give back to the community in ways that taxes don't equal," Fulton said.

For its part, an HISD spokesman tells us staff will evaluate the two bids and determine which one is the best value and recommend it.

And by Thursday, the bidding battle between neighbors could be over. That's when HISD trustees are expected to vote on the bids.

St. Thomas High School has had concerns over the fairness of the process and has said it plans to take those concerns to court if necessary.

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