D96 buys new home for central office

Administrators to move into Harlem Avenue building early next year

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

The administrative offices of Riverside Elementary School District 96 will once again be leaving Central School next year. And this time, for good.

Five years after returning to Central School from a five-year sojourn at Mater Christi Catholic School in North Riverside, the administrative offices will be moving off campus again to a building on Harlem Avenue.

On Nov. 7, the District 96 Board of Education unanimously approved a purchase agreement to buy the Texor Petroleum building at 3340 Harlem Ave. in Riverside for $600,000. 

The 7,500-square-foot office building, which was built in 1964, is being sold by a real estate trust controlled by Texor founder Thomas Gleitsman. 

The building was listed for sale at $675,000. District 96 made an offer of $585,000 and agreed to kick in an extra $15,000 for all the furniture.

Nearly a year ago, Deerfield-based Rmarts bought 10 convenience store/gas stations from Texor, which itself was purchased by World Fuels Corp. in 2008.

Former Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 school board member Bill McCloskey, who had worked for Texor for 26 years, has joined Rmarts as its chief operating officer.

District 96 has 30 days to perform inspections and due diligence before closing on the deal. If the deal goes ahead, the administrative staff will probably move into their new quarters sometime early next year, most likely in the spring, Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye said.

"Basically, it's move-in ready," said Jeff Miller, the president of the District 96 school board.

Thirteen central office staff, including the superintendent, will be moving to the Texor building.

"The main thing that purchasing this property does is it allows us get more space at Central for the students there," Miller said. "We're very tight in terms of space at Central, and it does so in a very cost-effective way."

District 96 is using cash reserves to buy the building.

The purchase of the Texor building comes nearly two years after District 96 made another real estate acquisition, paying $339,100 to buy a home at 92 Repton Road, next door to Ames School. 

That house was demolished last summer and the district is still considering plans for the land, which will likely include an addition to Ames School. An outdoor learning space and an expanded playground are also possibilities there.

Miller said that moving the district office to Repton would not have solved the issues at Ames School.

"The land we bought on Repton is going to be primarily to expand Ames for the benefit of our students," Miller said. "It wouldn't really make sense to build a building over there to house the administration."

The vacated administrative space at Central could be used to create a multipurpose, could be used as a lunchroom, something Central lacks. 

Central students eat in the Hauser Junior High cafeteria, which makes for inconvenient lunch times for some students at Central and Hauser.

Miller said if Central students don't have to use the Hauser cafeteria, that would make it easier to start the Hauser school day later in the morning, an idea that Miller has been interested in for some time.

"There's a lot research suggesting that those [adolescent] students should start school later," Miller said.

The Texor building sits on a one-acre lot and has more than twice the office space at Central. Ryan-Toye said that extra space could be used for professional development meetings. The property also comes with 30 parking spaces.

Miller said the district is paying less than $85 per square foot to buy the building, and he estimated that it would cost about three times that to build a new building. 

The current owner pays about $62,000 in property taxes, but the building will come off the tax rolls when District 96 assumes ownership, because governmental bodies are exempt from property taxes. The lost taxes will be spread among other property taxpayers in the village.

Some wondered why the school board did not discuss the purchase in open session prior to last week's vote. But under Illinois law, real estate matters can be discussed in closed session.

"It's really because boards of education need the opportunity to negotiate a fair price and fair offer," Ryan-Toye said. "To negotiate in the open there is a sense that it would, you know, not allow a board of education to get the best possible deal on a piece of property."

Board members have made no secret in recent years that they have been considering moving the district office off the Hauser-Central campus.

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