When retired teacher Clara E. Holladay passed away in 1946, she left the school district where she taught a generous and unusual gift: Two duplex houses on the northside of Indianapolis.
Holladay’s will stipulated that the income should “assist good and worthy students, who would not, without assistance, be able to secure a high school or college education,” according to the Indianapolis Star.
Indianapolis Public Schools held on to the houses at 54th Street and North College Avenue for the next seven decades. Last year, the district sold them for $423,000. (The proceeds of the sale were invested, and the interest will continue to fund scholarships.) Between September 2015 and the end of 2018, district officials expect to have sold 10 properties and raised nearly $21 million, according to information provided by the administration.
Many sales, like Holladay’s duplexes, occur without much attention. But the district’s plan to sell the building that contained Broad Ripple High School, after closing the school this year, has drawn significant attention. And it has ignited a simmering controversy over whether the district should be forced to sell the property to a charter school, as state law currently requires, or be allowed to sell it to a developer.
But while Broad Ripple has historical and personal significance, it is one of at least four former school buildings the district has sought to sell in recent years. Over the last 50 years, enrollment in the district fell from nearly 109,000 students to 31,000. In an effort to raise money for the cash-strapped district and reduce its stockpile of underused buildings, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee’s administration has made a flurry of sales.
The money that the district raises by selling property is a short-term salve for its budget woes. But it has helped pay the bills at a time when Indianapolis Public Schools is consistently running a deficit. Next year the administration projects a deficit of about $45 million, and officials plan to ask voters to increase school funding in November.
Indianapolis Public Schools set off a real estate frenzy when it sold a former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Mass Ave. that will soon become a high-end development. The district has owned the striking art deco property since the late 1960s, using it to house a bus depot and other central services. More recently, it purchased a historic church — the Phillips Temple — in 2011, and the administration planned to demolish it to make room for a parking lot, according to the Indianapolis Star. Instead, it sold the historic property to a developer in 2015.
Here is a list of the properties the district has sold since 2015, according to the district
Property: Minnie Hartmann School 78
Buyer: John H. Boner Center
Closing Date: 9/7/2015
Sale Proceeds: $400,000
Property: Phillips Temple
Buyer: Van Rooy Properties
Closing Date: 9/17/2015
Sale Proceeds: $122,500
Closing Date: 11/24/2015
Sale Proceeds: $1,100,000
Property: Florence Fay School 21
Buyer: TWG (Whitsett Group)
Closing Date: 2/26/2016
Sale Proceeds: $500,000
Property: Otis E. Brown School 20
Buyer: Tessera (Yeshua Society)
Closing Date: 7/20/2016
Sale Proceeds: $255,000
Property: College Avenue Doubles
Buyer: L. Stoeffer and Associates, Inc.
Closing Date: 12/21/2016
Sale Proceeds: $423,000
Property: SCIPS – Service Center IPS
Buyer: Bottleworks District, LLC
Closing Date: 9/1/2017
Sale Proceeds: $12,000,000
Buyer: Ford TWG, LLC
Closing Date: 11/3/2017
Sale Proceeds: $1,650,000
Property: Meridian Transition
Buyer: Families First
Closing Date: In Negotiations / July 2018
Sale Proceeds: $1,575,000
Buyer: TWG Development, LLC
Closing Date: Pending Sale / December 2018
Sale Proceeds: $2,750,000