By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
The Birmingham Board of Education (BOE) on Tuesday approved a nonbinding letter of intent to sell its current headquarters building, which houses administrative staff for the BOE and the school district at 2015 Park Place and move about a block away to Colonial Plaza at 2101 6th Avenue North.
The central office building is located on prime real estate across the street from Linn Park and near the Jefferson County Courthouse, Birmingham library and City Hall and contains everything from Birmingham City School departments to meetings of the BOE.
“This relocation would provide the district with an opportunity to consolidate three of our administrative offices into one facility, thereby reducing operational costs and providing for more efficiency in the delivery of services to our schools and stakeholders,” said Mark Sullivan, Ed.D. superintendent of Birmingham City Schools.
In March, the board also approved a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase Colonial Plaza at 2101 6th Avenue North for $7.9 million.
Under Tuesday’s letter of intent, the board would sell the building on Park Place for $5.5 million to Cubed Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate investment firm. The approval was made 7-2, with Board Members Sonja Smith and Leticia Watkins voting no.
Smith said she knows that the building’s sale would be “a great opportunity” but that she’s opposed because she is concerned with school maintenance during the move and that the board has had limited time to discuss the deal.
“I don’t think that we, as a board, should be rushed to make this kind of a decision either, the way that it was presented and the limited discussion that we’ve had over the last few months that this has been worked out,” Smith said.
Watkins said she would like to see a “more thorough breakdown” of what upgrades are planned for schools. r’s requests would be coming system-wide, according to Wilson.
Board Member Sherman Collins Jr. said the deal is a special opportunity and that it should be considered separately from school improvements.
“I just want us to understand that these are two separate things that we have to be careful not to marry together, and I’ll tell you this, from being in this [real estate] market, you don’t get this opportunity very often…” said Collins, who has property management experience.
With a more modern building, board Member Jason Meadows said he is excited about the potential to “recruit and retain high-level executives.”
“If you visit any corporate spaces … law offices. If you go in their space, it’s first-class. It looks like, this is a place ‘where I want to do business. This is a place where I want to work.’ I would love to say that,” said Meadows.
Board Member James Sullivan said it is important to make clear that the board is committed to improving schools system-wide as they consider purchasing the new building.
I think it’s important that we communicate that to the public, so they know that we’re not leaving [schools systemwide] out of this equation,” board member Sullivan said.