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You are here: Home Letters to the Editor Greenacres Renovation Will Cost as Much as or More Than a New School
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Greenacres Renovation Will Cost as Much as or More Than a New School

hardhatBelow is a letter from Wendy Shi, a member of the Greenacres Elementary Task Force. Her letter compares the cost of the propsed Greenacres renovations and a new Greenacres school. 

To the Editor: The construction industry recognizes that the threshold when deciding whether it is cost-effective to renovate or build new is that renovation is unjustified if it will cost somewhere in the 65% range of what new construction would cost. In fact, the District's current architect acknowledges that spending between 40%-50% on a renovation could only be justified if the end-result was satisfactory. Despite this, the architect proposes a renovation of Greenacres that will not address the objectives set by the School Board or address the safety of the children in a project that will cost, conservatively, as much as what a new school would cost and, more than likely, up to $15 million more than what a new school would cost after appropriate adjustments are made. Therefore, moving ahead with a renovation is unjustifiable and Scarsdale should build a new school for Greenacres.

The architect states that the renovation will cost $30 million but acknowledges that this number erroneously omits $8 million that would be required through funding from future operating budgets. Therefore, by the architect's own calculation, the cost of the renovation is actually $38 million.

The architect then states that a new school will cost $59 million – an estimate he arrives at by multiplying a school of 74,000 square feet by a per-square-foot-cost of $800. But, at the June 22, 2017 public forum, the architect dropped this number to approximately $700 psf and many in the industry say a school can be built for less than $600 psf. In addition, because the proposed renovation does not meet state requirements, the District would receive between $4 and $10 million more in state aid if it constructs a new school than if it renovates. A new school would also provide $3-5 million in cost savings over time through more efficient and sustainable (geo-thermal heating and cooling, etc.) infrastructure that requires fewer repairs over time. Therefore, the actual cost of a new school would be in the range of $29.4 million and $45 million.

Furthermore, the current proposal leaves theletter-to-the-editorchildren in the school during renovation, subjecting them to environmental hazards and the architect's budget does not include any protection for the children. The previous architect stated that removing the children from the school to ensure their safety would cost between $4 and $7 million. Accordingly, if the Board takes the responsible approach and requires that the children be removed from harms' way, the cost of renovation would increase to $45 million.

Below is a summary showing the cost comparisons: project costs

Therefore, a renovation may be the same price or even $15 million more expensive than a new school! I note that this is entirely consistent with the initial proposal from the first architect that showed a renovation costing about the same amount as a new school (before taking into account state aid).

Even with the high cost of renovation, the architect and Administration acknowledge that the renovation is inferior to new construction but simply state, without any backup or specifics, that the proposed renovation will be adequate. But, it won't be. The renovation does not address either the spatial or infrastructure needs of the current school and leaves the students and community with an out-dated and inadequate building.

Accordingly, it is shocking that the renovation is even being considered and it would be completely inappropriate and indefensible for the Board to sanction such an approach. Instead, the Board should pursue a new, state-of-the-art facility.

The proposed renovation is an unjustifiable expense that does not address the needs of the current school, while a new school is a cost-effective and innovative investment that continues Scarsdale's tradition of education excellence.

Sincerely,
Wendy Shi
Brewster Road
Member of the Greenacres Elementary Task Force

Comments   

+3 #8 K. Ramza 2017-07-02 12:08
Quoting Present value:
When analyzed over a longer period with all costs fully loaded and discounted to today, the new school will be comparable in cost (or not that much higher). It is bizarre that there is still not a proper NPV analysis published by the board. And when are people going to admit that the previous architects had real vision and design sense whether new or rennovate. Just look at their portfolio versus the BBS stuff.


I would like to see this analysis. I'm not sure how you make up $30MM in cost differences. Don't forget that you will need to finance an additional $30MM in capital (higher interest payments) and that state aid for new schools is paid out over a longer period of time than for renovations. Also, if you are looking at a period in excess of 15 years, the new school will also need a new roof and and new mechanical equipment. I don't think the energy savings can even come close to making up this difference on a present value basis.
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+4 #7 S. Schmidt 2017-06-30 17:32
Quoting Present value:
When analyzed over a longer period with all costs fully loaded and discounted to today, the new school will be comparable in cost (or not that much higher). It is bizarre that there is still not a proper NPV analysis published by the board. And when are people going to admit that the previous architects had real vision and design sense whether new or rennovate. Just look at their portfolio versus the BBS stuff.



Please show your numbers and analysis. I am curious to see your assumptions and numbers.
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+8 #6 Present value 2017-06-30 16:51
When analyzed over a longer period with all costs fully loaded and discounted to today, the new school will be comparable in cost (or not that much higher). It is bizarre that there is still not a proper NPV analysis published by the board. And when are people going to admit that the previous architects had real vision and design sense whether new or rennovate. Just look at their portfolio versus the BBS stuff.
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-10 #5 Black Coffee 2017-06-30 08:51
Of course it will cost as much (or, likely, more) to fully renovate GA as it would to build new. If you live in an old house in Scarsdale, you already knew this to be the case based on your own lived experience with the cost of renovating an old structure. The issue at hand is a choice between (a) a fully renovated GA (old on the outside but new on the inside), or (b) whatever BBS would come up with if they were to design a new school. And we know, based on BBS's prior portfolio of work, that option (b) would be a hideous eyesore. So we are left with option (a) by default.
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+5 #4 D. Smith 2017-06-29 21:58
What is this? New math? In all my years as an equity analyst, I have never seen this way of comparing two projects. You need to contact a net present value analysis. You need to project all costs for each project and then discount for risk to arrive at a net present value. Who are these 'many in the industry' who say that a school can be built at $600/sq ft.? Please provide sources.Where is the proof that the state would subsidize building a new school in Scarsdale? And where is the proof that efficencies would result in savings of $3-5 million? You do not subtract alleged savings to consider what up from costs are. Your analysis says nothing about commodity prices, labor costs, interest rate levels, possible over runs, or risks.
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-8 #3 GA resident 2017-06-29 17:59
I will not have a child who will be affected by this either way. Thanks for this analysis. I think the school board should use the same process and pitch the voters. With interest rates as low as they are I think that the total cost of building a new school is very compelling.
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-6 #2 FM resident 2017-06-29 15:35
Bravo, Wendy. This is precisely the kind of analysis all residents need if they are concerned about the tax/budget impact of this decision.
Hopefully, GA residents can set the financials aside and resolve their more personal / idiosyncratic disagreements regarding field, look of the school, safety, etc.
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-7 #1 Greenacres Parent 2017-06-29 15:08
Very well said. A real apples to apples comparison is long overdue. $38 million and a renovation doesn't even add air conditioning?
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