The Houston Independent School District is making a push for final offers on 11 acres of prime real estate along Shepherd Drive, just north of St. Thomas High School and Memorial Drive.
The property at 4701 Dickson St. — currently occupied by HISD's High School for Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice — hit the market at $40 million in late May, sparking a mini-bidding war between an investment company A.V. Dickson Street and St. Thomas, which hopes to expand its campus.
In a rather dramatic move, the school board rejected both bids in July, citing that each party broke the district's policy of silence by speaking directly with trustees during the bidding process.
St. Thomas returned to the bidder's ring last week with an offer of $45 million only to be bested by a mysterious new company called E.L.K. Mountain, which submitted a cash bid of nearly $48 million.
On Monday, HISD spokesperson Jason Spencer told CultureMap that the school board has asked the two parties for their "best and final offers." HISD now requests that all offers include a $1 annual lease agreement to allow the law enforcement school to remain at its current location for two years or until it moves to a new facility. Starting Nov. 1, bids can be submitted for a Nov. 14 decision date.
The Leader reports that an HISD rep couldn't confirm if E.L.K. was related to A.V. Dickson, but noted that the two groups used the same broker. Contact information for E.L.K. could not be located and phone calls to A.V. were not returned.
Issues of land use continue to dominate the bidding war. Private investors like A.V. Dickson plan to tap the booming residential market around Washington Avenue, while St. Thomas will continue using the property for educational purposes.
"Ultimately, we plan to keep the HISD building as it is," Nick Tammaro, communications director at St. Thomas, told CultureMap via phone on Monday. "It's really cool how well the current campus complements our own with sports fields, labs and art facilities . . . It presents a wonderful opportunity for us to increase enrollment in a city with a growing Catholic population."
Seeing opportunities of its own, A.V. Dickson recently purchased a large plot of apartments next to the HISD lot with a long-term goal of creating a 26-acre mixed-use luxury complex.
How the property is used presents an interesting conundrum for the school district, which The Leader estimates would gain at least $450,000 in annual taxes with a sale to a non-educational entity. Selling to another school like St. Thomas would continue to keep the valuable land off the tax rolls.