Construction of new building now delayed until March

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By Alexa Fishman, Community Editor

Escrow closing on Shalhevet’s property sale has been postponed once again and now is slated for March 18, officials said, meaning another delay in the start of construction on the school’s new building.

Ms. Renee Weitzer, chief of land use planning for City Councilman Tom LaBonge, said the project is in a final appeal period, but that should be the last delay.

“The appeal process has an end date, and if no one files an appeal, then the project can move forward,” Ms. Weitzer told The Boiling Point in a telephone interview last week.

Shalhevet board president Larry Gill said there is a “tiny chance” that someone could sue to stop the project, which has been approved by both the city zoning board and its appeals commission.

Though the chances are small, he said, the project investor, AIG, does not want to close escrow while there is any risk at all.

“I don’t think there is anybody who is allowed to file that suit,” said Mr. Gill, “but the investor for Alliance Residential is a big money agency, and they’re risk-averse.”

He said the close of escrow would mean the start of construction, which would begin with the demolition of the now-empty north portion of campus.

“As soon as escrow closes, we’re going to tear down the building- if not literally the next day, then very soon after,” said Mr. Gill.

He said he believes that as long as construction begins in March, the new building will be ready by the end of next school year – meaning this year’s junior class would experience a couple months in the new, three-story building with indoor gym, spiral staircase and rooftop art, music, and recreational space.
Despite assurances that construction will begin soon, many students are losing faith.

“Although I understand it must be very hard to break ground, I am still disappointed that the many dates of construction given in the past have not been true, and that half our school is sitting unused,” said sophomore Jacob Dauer.

Junior Max Helfand is also really disappointed that construction hasn’t begun.

“I think my whole grade would want construction to be done by the time we’re seniors,” said Max. “I just hope that we’ll get to experience the new building for some of our last year at Shalhevet.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Gill said Shalhevet has received assurances that it will not have to begin paying rent to the buyer, Alliance Residential, to keep using the parts of campus where school is being held now.

Originally, Alliance — which plans to build 147 apartments and a retail complex after the new school building is finished — had said Shalhevet could only use the Annex building free of rent for 12 months, starting last July. After that, Shalhevet would have had to pay.

Related: Shalhevet closes building sale — finally

Related: Shalhevet wins construction appeal, construction to begin within 60 days

Related: New building won’t open before January 2015

Related: City zoning official approves building plans, but neighbors may still appeal

Related: Administration reveals plans for new building, showing three stories, science labs, stage and gym

Related: $8.2 million profit from partial sale of campus will start construction of new three-story building