It’s been more than a year since the Kingston City School District approved the sale of its Cioni Building headquarters in an open bidding process, and after starting work on converting the former Frank L. Meagher Elementary School into a pre-kindergarten hub and new district office, that sale could finally be imminent.
“The lawyers are just working back and forth on an exact date,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino of the Crown Street edifice this week. “But it looks like we’re ready to go, and the signs are pointing to the first 10 days of October.”
In July 2017, the school board approved selling its current administrative headquarters to 61 Crown Street LLC, which is led by New York City-based developer Neil Bender and filed a bid as BRE Properties. The $4.25 million bid, with an eye on turning the property into a boutique hotel and spa, came during an open bidding session on the highly coveted property in booming Uptown Kingston. The next highest bid was for $1.8 million. Trustees later agreed to cut the price to $3.47 million, after an environmental review found a variety of structural issues that needed to be addressed.
This week, Padalino said that the impending closing is a relief. “It really is,” Padalino said. “And anxiety causing. But we’ve had no concerns. Mr. Bender has purchased several other buildings in the area. I’m assuming he has a plan … So I’m confident and not worried.”
In April, the district received the first review of architectural plans for Meagher from the State Education Department, giving school officials hope that they’ll be able to break ground on the project this summer and move their headquarters there from Cioni by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, though the terms of the sale of their Crown Street headquarters gives them up to two years to fully vacate.
This week, Padalino said the first phase of the Meagher work is already underway. “We’ve got all the contracts executed, contractors are on site right now,” he said. “Asbestos abatement started this week, so that’s one of those issues you never like to deal with because it’s expensive and takes awhile, but that’s where they have to start. That’s underway and then the real construction will get going.”
Bender could not be reached for comment.