Traverse City News and Events

TCAPS Board Approves Purchase Agreement for Admin Building, Agrees to List Bertha Vos on Market

By Beth Milligan | Oct. 10, 2023

Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) trustees voted unanimously Monday to approve a $750,000 purchase agreement for the Ida Tompkins Administration Building from Boardman Building LLC – a group that plans to renovate (rather than demolish) the Webster Street building and turn it into residential units. The building could change hands as soon as next summer. TCAPS trustees also voted to list Bertha Vos Elementary School on the market after potential buyer Acme Township failed to submit a purchase agreement for the site.

TCAPS trustees previously authorized staff to enter negotiations with Boardman Building LLC for the Administration Building, with the board then approving the group’s $750,000 formal purchase agreement Monday. The property, located at 412 Webster Street, houses TCAPS administration offices, business services, human resources, curriculum, communications, and the district’s printing department. TCAPS has been looking to sell the building and relocate its staff and services elsewhere, likely to a combination of the Sabin Data Center on Cass Road and the former Glenn Loomis school on Oak Street.

Architect Ken Richmond and licensed contractor Eric Gerstner formed Boardman Building LLC and sent a late offer for the property to TCAPS with the goal of saving the building from demolition. Another development group, Keel Capital, offered $1.2 million for the site but planned to raze the building to make way for residential units. Boardman Building LLC will convert the building to 13-15 residential units, with three additional townhomes added in new construction. Boardman Building LLC did not make its final offer contingent on city zoning approval, though the developers, TCAPS representatives, and city staff plan to meet next week to talk through zoning for the site.

The purchase agreement includes a 90-day inspection period and a deed restriction prohibiting any short-term or vacation rentals on the property (that restriction applies to the original Administration Building, not the new construction addition planned for the site). The purchase agreement also protects the Administration Building from being demolished for at least 25 years. If Boardman Building LLC were to sell its entire interest in the property before any individual residential units or townhouse-style homes were sold, it could recover its purchase price – plus expenses – but then must pay any excess revenues beyond that to TCAPS. The parties agreed to apply for brownfield funding for the property, with any successful brownfield reimbursements to be split between Boardman Building LLC (75 percent) and TCAPS (25 percent).

The agreement stipulates that Boardman Building LLC will take immediate possession of the Administration Building upon the close of the sale. That is proposed to happen between June 30 and July 15 next year. However, trustees Monday authorized staff to further negotiate that language if needed. TCAPS Superintendent Dr. John VanWagoner said he anticipates the district will be able to move its staff and services out of the Administration Building by that time – potentially starting the relocation process in the spring – but wants the ability to add in wiggle room in case any extenuating circumstances arise. He said Boardman Building LLC seemed open to that scenario, and that if for any reason TCAPS did need more time, it would likely just move the closing date back.

While trustees didn’t accept Keel Capital’s offer, they recognized the extensive work the company put into its rival proposal and publicly thanked all interested buyers in helping them reach a final plan. “We value the work that went into all offers,” Board President Scott Newman-Bale said. “We wish to also recognize their work.”

VanWagoner told trustees Monday that Acme Township – which has been working on a proposal to buy the district’s vacant Bertha Vos Elementary School and turn it into a new township hall and community center – still isn’t ready to submit a purchase agreement. TCAPS trustees previously voted in June to authorize staff to sign an agreement to sell Bertha Vos to Acme Township for $600,000, but that deal was later delayed so the township could conduct inspections to determine the cost for replacing the building’s roof and boiler. VanWagoner said Acme trustees recently notified TCAPS that “they were not yet ready to submit a purchase agreement” and “are still working on thoughts and ideas” on how to finance the deal.

TCAPS trustees previously said that if Acme Township wasn’t ready to move forward by this week’s meeting, they’d be interested in listing the property on the market. They authorized VanWagoner Monday to proceed with that approach, agreeing to list the school for $725,000 with Scott Hardy of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors. VanWagoner noted that entertaining other offers won’t preclude TCAPS from still working out a deal with Acme if the township wants to proceed down the road.

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