Troy School District officials estimate that the cost to renovate the former ITT Technical Institute building on Big Beaver Road, on sale for $4 million, would be $2 million.

Troy School District officials estimate that the cost to renovate the former ITT Technical Institute building on Big Beaver Road, on sale for $4 million, would be $2 million.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Troy School District plans to buy ITT building for $4M

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 25, 2019

 The Troy School District plans to demolish the Niles Center — the oldest part of which was built in 1923 — to create green space along Square Lake Road.

The Troy School District plans to demolish the Niles Center — the oldest part of which was built in 1923 — to create green space along Square Lake Road.

Photo by Terry Oparka

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TROY — The Niles Center, which houses the Troy School District College and Career High School and continuing education programs, has outlived its useful life, according to the Troy School District Board of Education, which recently initiated the purchase of a new building for the programs.

The board plans to purchase a new building and demolish the Niles Center, located at 201 W. Square Lake Road.

At its Sept. 17 meeting, the Board of Education voted 5-1 to authorize the purchase of the vacant ITT Technical Institute on Big Beaver Road for up to $4 million, and to issue $6 million in bonds to finance the purchase and the $2 million needed to renovate the building.

Board Trustee Elizabeth Hammond opposed both measures. Board Trustee Steve Gottlieb was absent.

“I’m not saying I’m 100% against the purchase of ITT Technical,” Hammond said. “I’m just saying we need to dig a little deeper. We need to look at all our alternatives. I don’t feel I’ve been given all the information I need to make an informed decision with this property purchase.”

Board President Karl Schmidt, Vice President Nancy Philippart, and Trustees Paula Fleming, Gary Hauff and Nicole Wilson supported it.

“This is the most fiscally responsible action for this board to take. One thing this board has agreed upon is that the Niles building has outlived its useful life,” Philippart said. “Frankly, it’s (the Niles building) an embarrassment for the district.”

She described the chance to purchase the ITT building as a “perfect opportunity,” and the building as “perfectly suited to educational use we can move into in relatively short order.”

“It’s quite the once-in-a-lifetime purchase,” Hauff said.

Schmidt said that after a lot of analysis beginning in 2011-12, “we agree that Niles is falling apart.” He noted that funding to replace or upgrade the building was not included in 2013 bond issue because “we determined we could not afford Niles too.”

He noted that action would need to wait for a successful bond issue in 2023, if the district did not purchase the ITT building. He said it would cost $15 million to $17 million to construct a building similar to ITT and that the cost to rent the ITT building is slightly higher than a mortgage would be.

Schmidt added that renovations to Niles, just for roofs and windows, could cost $2 million, and the district lacks the space in other buildings to house the programs offered in the Niles Center. The building also has major plumbing and electrical issues.

He said the graduation rate at the College and Career High School is 85%, much higher than 24%-35% in other alternative high school programs. “We’re doing something right. I have no problem with this decision.”

Rick West, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, told the trustees the purchase of the ITT building would allow the district to maintain and enhance the current programs at the Niles building.

“The Niles building has come to the end of its life,” he said. “We are looking to move those programs and enhance them.”

He told the trustees that an initial assessment of the ITT building revealed that about $2 million in renovations would be needed before students could occupy the building for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year next fall.

“We’ve looked long and hard at the Niles building,” said Kerry Birmingham, the director of communications and strategic initiatives for the district. “It has ongoing problems requiring significant investment.”

She described the ITT building as a “rare educational space up for sale to meet our needs.”

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