The Edward W. Bower Elementary School in Lindenhurst is looking for a buyer.
Hoping for an infusion of cash, the Lindenhurst board of education voted last week to put the shuttered school and adjacent fields on the market for $6.499 million.
The 55,000-square-foot school, one of the district's oldest buildings, had the district's lowest enrollment when it was closed in June 2011. Since then, a handful of groups leased the building, but costs to maintain it continue to climb, Superintendent Richard Nathan said. This year, the district expects to spend $210,837 while receiving $51,460 in revenue from a church and day care center.
The property was recently appraised between $5.5 million and $6.6 million, or $5.2 million to $6.3 million without the athletic fields. Hundreds of students and local groups use the fields for soccer, football and lacrosse, officials said.
At a meeting last week, Marcia Finkelstein, an attorney for the district, acknowledged the appraiser was "somewhat creative" and that the estimate was "carved out" of comparable sales, including one in Queens.
Jamie Winkler, whose Islip-based real estate company was hired in June to lease and possibly sell the property, told the board the appraisal was "extremely, extremely unrealistic." She advised that the most profitable sale of the nearly 5-acre property would be to a school or assisted living center. "But I have to tell you I don't think you're getting anywhere near $5 million or $6 million," she said, estimating $3.5 million as more likely.
However, many board members said they wanted to test the market and voted 6-3 to have Winkler list the property for sale at $6.499 million. Board members who voted against the listing questioned whether Bower was the most lucrative property to sell, and what the district would do if enrollment increases in the south end. Winkler estimated the most she would get from renting out the building is $250,000 a year.
Winkler said some have walked away from buying the 1952 building due to the necessary expense of upgrades, lack of parking and because they "felt the building is just too old." Lack of central air conditioning has also been a "major obstacle" to snagging interest.
She said the Upper Room Christian School in Dix Hills has emerged as a potential buyer, and is seeking space to educate 200 to 250 Chinese students as part of a new international school. Headmaster Samuel Hashim said Upper Room is interested in Bower, but the international school's creation is at least two years away and housing needs to be found first.
Attorney for the school district Robert Cohen advised the board to place some money from any sale into reserve funds for capital projects or repairs. He said money also would have to be placed into an escrow account to pay off $1.6 million in outstanding debt attached to Bower.
Voter approval would be necessary for any sale, officials said.