Middletown buys former school properties for possible new homes in redevelopment

Middletown City Council on Tuesday approved an emergency resolution to spend $600,000 for the purchase of four former school sites.

Council voted 4-1 for the emergency resolution with Mayor Nicole Condrey voting against.

The properties, which total 26.45 acres of land, were formerly the sites of Vail/Middletown Middle School, 1414 Girard Ave.; Jefferson School, 800 Charles St.; Oneida School, 2717 Yankee Road; and Garfield School, at Yankee Road and Cherry Street.

Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said the site of the former Middletown Middle School, also known as the Vail Middle School, “is immediately usable as a part of the Oakland Historic Redevelopment Project.” The school district had to wait for state approval of new school construction before it could put the property up for sale.

The five-phase project for the Oakland Renaissance Incentive District is designed to revitalize the entire neighborhood, attract new residents and expand the tax base.

The developers and city officials are proposing new housing that could include new three-bedroom loft homes and three-to four-bedroom townhouses, condominiums and row-houses ranging from 1,500 to 2,400 square feet on the former middle school site.

Cohen said the remaining properties will be offered as part of redevelopment efforts in attempt to attract additional economic development opportunities.

Local landlord Dan Tracy spoke in opposition to the resolution for the second time in two weeks, saying the city should do their own appraisals and not rely on the school district’s appraisals.

“We elect people to represent us and we’re asking council to listen to the people,” Tracy said. “We’re asking council to table this. Let’s not rush this and let’s get this right. It’s a 10- to 15-year plan, why the hurry?”

Tracy said council should not let other people hold the city “hostage” to get rid of property.

Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan said the city and Middletown City Schools have been working for many months to sell the former middle school site for the Oakland project. He said the city will be strategic with the vacant land.

“It was sold as a package,” Mulligan said. “We anticipate we’ll be able to sell the property and recoup the money.”

He agreed that “the city in the real estate business can be problematic” and while the city has been judicious, not all of them have been good deals.

Condrey said she had a problem with the city spending money on properties without getting independent appraisals.

“I feel like we owe it to the citizens to get our own appraisals,” she said.

After the vote, Tracy said, “that’s the council we’ve got. She said why and they still approved it. It’s stupid.”

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