HISD rejects both bidders for property on sale

July 18, 2013 2:40:49 PM PDT
A potential deal for some prime real estate owned by HISD has fallen apart, and the district says it's because the bidders didn't follow the rules.

Saint Thomas High School and the investment group, AV Dickson Street were posturing to get the land at Memorial and Shepherd, which currently is a magnet, The High School for Law Enforcement And Criminal Justice. And they may not be out of it, yet.

It's 11 acres of prime real estate atop which sits a vintage school building too outdate for modern purposes. HISD had put the land up for sale, attracting two top bidders -- the neighboring Saint Thomas High School and a private investment firm.

Between those two bids, the property would either have been left intact and become part of Saint Thomas, or raw land for development. Each offer was for more than $40 million and were about a million dollars apart.

On Thursday, HISD took the land off the market.

"Both of the parties actually had contact with the board that violated our code of silence policy," HISD board attorney Dave Thomas said.

The policy, according to HISD, was adopted three years ago to prevent undue influence when bids are being considered. In this case, both Saint Thomas and the investment firms bids were rejected.

"The violation came around the discussion of the specifics bids and advocating their own specifics of those bids," HISD Board President Anna Eastman said.

It came as a surprise to the investment group competing for the property. AV Dickson Street LLC expressed disappointment in the outcome stating:

"It is important to note HISD's offer memorandum did not include, nor have we ever been provided, any warning regarding a 'Code of Silence.' It has always been our understanding any purchase and sale process would be conducted in an open and public manner with a result that benefits both HISD and the public."

Representatives of Saint Thomas High School are equally disappointed. Its plans included preserving the buildings and trees as an expansion to its own campus. They, too, were taken by surprise.

"I was completely unaware of it, and we're unclear at this point about what exactly occurred in terms of violation of the code of silence," said Nick Tamarro with Saint Thomas High School.

And so the coveted property sits for a while longer. It will continue to operate as an HISD magnet school for a few more years, awaiting an eventual buyer.

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