By Bob Skolnik
Riverside Elementary School District 96 is buying another house next to Ames School.
At a special meeting on Jan. 8, the District 96 school board unanimously approved an agreement to purchase the home at 443 Loudon Road, which is next to the Ames parking lot and just northwest of the school.
The purchase will give the district more space to work with as officials finalize plans for an addition to Ames School that is expected to be built in the summer of 2020.
The school district will pay $350,000 for the approximately 1,250-square-foot stucco bungalow, which sits on a 12,396 square-foot-lot. The home will eventually be demolished to create more space for the addition, more green space and additional parking.
"This really opens that back side of the building," said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye.
In 2016, the district purchased and eventually demolished the home at 92 Repton Road on the east side of Ames. The purchase of the Loudon Road lot will also make it easier for the school district to comply with zoning codes and as well as create additional playground space and outdoor learning space.
"We're very appreciative of the opportunity to be able to acquire this additional property," Ryan-Toye said. "We anticipate bringing our design ideas to the board and to the community at our Jan. 16 Board of Education meeting. We're looking at design ideas that now incorporate this property that are going to allow us to have more flexibility in our considerations."
The acquisition gives the district more space to work with as it considers plans for the addition. The school board is keen on not only building an addition to Ames but expanding green space at the school.
"It makes it easier to do what the district would like to do," said District 96 school board President Jeff Miller. "Acquiring this lot gives the district the ability to put a more suitable addition on the back of Ames while still preserving most of the Repton lot for play space."
It appears that the district is paying a bit of premium for the home, which is owned by Scott and Brooke Schwarz. The district's appraisal valued the home at $330,000 although Scott Schwarz said that other appraisals were higher.
The district is also throwing in a $5,000 moving allowance and will let the Schwarzes live in the house rent-free for all of 2019. The house does not need to be demolished until 2020 because the district does not plan to build the addition to Ames until that year.
"We wouldn't be doing anything with that lot anyway, because any kind of construction would only start in 2020," Miller said.
The home was not on the market. Instead, the Schwarzes first approached District 96 officials in 2016 about the possibility of selling their home shortly after the district bought the Repton Road home.
As the district's architects worked on plans for the addition to Ames and struggled with space constraints, talks to buy the home turned serious over the last few months.
"This property was brought to our attention really quite a while ago," Ryan-Toye said.
Scott Schwarz is an assistant vice president of mortgage loan origination at Regions Bank. Brooke Schwarz is a neonatal intensive care nurse and the former co-president of the Ames PTA. They have three daughters, two of whom have graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School and one who is a sophomore at RBHS.
"Our kids went to that school," Scott Schwarz said of Ames School. "We always thought that having a little green space for that school would be a benefit, and that was part of the reason that we looked into doing this when they had bought the other property and were starting to create some green space."
District 96 will pay cash for the home. This is the third real estate acquisition for the district in a little more than two years.
In 2016, the district paid $339,100 for the home at 92 Repton Road, which it demolished last year. In November 2018, the district agreed to buy the former Texor Petroleum office building at 3340 Harlem Ave. for $600,000 to house the district administrative office.
That deal has not closed yet as the district has extended its due-diligence period to conduct an environmental review of the property.