Sale of MPS surplus property to military-structured voucher school postponed

Board of Zoning Appeals delays decision until September meeting

The Milwaukee Public Schools surplus property at 500 E. Center St. in Riverwest.

A decision on whether to finalize the sale of an Milwaukee Public Schools surplus property to a military-structured voucher school that specializes in working with at-risk boys has been delayed until September.

On Thursday night, the Milwaukee Board of Zoning Appeals postponed action on whether to grant a special use permit to Right Step Inc. to operate a school at the MPS surplus property at 500 E. Center St. in Riverwest until a meeting on Sept. 8.

Obtaining the special use permit from the board is a condition of the finalization of the sale, which received approval from the Common Council on Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Public Schools surplus property at 500 E. Center St. in Riverwest.
The Milwaukee Public Schools surplus property at 500 E. Center St. in Riverwest.

Right Step Inc., which has operated in the Milwaukee area since 2007, submitted a proposal to purchase the building at 500 E. Center St. in Riverwest for $223,000 from MPS earlier this year.

The 7,980-square-foot building, originally home to Holton State Bank, was constructed in 1927 and was remodeled in 1990 to house MPS’s Centro del Nino Head Start Program. The property has been vacant since 2005 and was designated a surplus property in 2014.

Right Step plans to spend around $75,000 renovating the building, which it will use to accommodate an all-male military based education program for 125 to 150 students. Right Step is required to complete renovations and move into the property within 24 months of the purchase. Proceeds from surplus property sales are deposited in the MPS Operations Fund after expenses stemming from property appraisal are deducted.

In April, the Common Council passed a measure recognizing five private and charter schools, including Right Step, that were interested in buying Milwaukee Public Schools surplus properties as education operators. The measure cleared the way for the city to begin the sales process for MPS surplus properties after months of delays stemming from legal friction over how a new state law defines which buyers are eligible to purchase vacant or underused MPS properties.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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