The shrinking Grand Rapids public school district has a surplus inventory of elementary schools on the northeast end of town. So, it only makes sense to sell one of them, the old Huff Elementary School and its eleven acres of grounds along Ball Avenue. An outfit from Atlanta, Georgia, called Mosaica Education put in a $1.38 million cash offer for the property to re-open it as a charter school. Not bad, especially when the other offer was for only $800,000, 57% of the Mosaic offer, with no payment for a year and a half from Midwest Housing, which would demolish the school and erect low-income housing in its place.
No brainer, right? Wrong. The GRPS board has been tussling with how to rationalize taking the offer from Midwest Housing, in which board member David Allen has an interest (though he recused himself from the process), instead of the Mosaica offer. The board has been more concerned about protecting turf for the GRPS from further charter school competition than its obligation to balance the books by raising cash from the sale of unused buildings. However, it looked like the board wasn't going to be able to square that circle. The difference between the two bids was too large.
But at the last minute on Friday, the Red Stone Group came in with a $1 million cash offer for the Huff site to build mid-range condos and homes. Oh sure, the feel-good sop of building low-income housing would be out the window, but the financial terms were a whole lot better than what Midwest Housing was offering. Maybe so, but Red Stone's out-of-the-blue offer still stinks compared to Mosaica's. Mosaica is offering the taxpayers 38% more cash and will keep a school intact on the property in a neighborhood that would otherwise be devoid of any community hub.
The Mosaica offers expires today, so it'll be interesting to see how far the GRPS board will go to screw the taxpayers to raise a barrier against further competition.