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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

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