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'Old' Zane School Sold to Kitchen & Associates

The architectural firm paid $800K for the property and will enjoy a 10-year PILOT agreement with the borough, while still allowing use of its parking lot during off-hours.

Fifteen years ago, Collingswood borough commissioner Joan Leonard said, the “Old” Zane School on Haddon Avenue was a rotten dump with a caved-in roof that doubled as a pigeon roost.

“The building was literally falling down,” Leonard told the public at Monday’s commissioners meeting. “It was frightening.”

Leonard, who lives across the street from the property, speaks of what she knows. Such a historic building (it dates back to 1905) deserved a better fate.

So Leonard was among those most excited when the borough announced that it had come to terms with the current tenants of the building, the architectural firm Kitchen & Associates, to sell the property she'd helped restore 15 years ago.

In addition to the $800,000 asking price, Kitchen & Associates also formed a 10-year PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement with the borough that will bring in approximately $8,000 annually for the next decade, said Collingswood Mayor James Maley.

“In 1998 we raised the money to renovate the Zane School,” Maley said. “This purchase by Kitchen leaves us at just about $150,000 below what we had originally started at.”

Maley said the borough would recoup that investment by the end of the calendar year by getting the property off its books, and argued that “financially, in my opinion, we’re way ahead” thanks to years of Kitchen & Associates employees patronizing borough businesses.

“It’s really a model of what the whole point of redevelopment is,” Maley said. “Another 10 years, it will be back on the tax rolls.”

Maley invoked the marketing campaign the borough rolled out during the renovation of the property—“building our future by restoring our past”—in describing the success of the arrangement with Kitchen and Associates.

“It’s worked out that way,” he said.

The school has become "a community focal point for activity," Maley said, and part of the agreement with Kitchen & Associates preserves borough use of the front steps of the building for community gatherings, near the iconic downtown clock, “and the parking lot will be an extension of our public parking when it’s not in use.”

“It’s what had always been intended from when we started,” said Steve Schoch, the managing principal partner of Kitchen & Associates.

“Being part of the civic life, we’re there; we’re sponsoring various things,” Schoch said, pointing out that his firm designed the Collingswood Community Center, among other projects in town.

“I live three blocks away, so my commute is quite good,” he laughed.

Like the other upcoming redevelopment projects throughout the borough, including the LumberYard and forthcoming doctor’s office near Route 130, as well as similar transit-related developments in Haddon Township, the restoration of the Zane School is best understood in terms of “the big picture,” Schoch said.

“It’s not one project, it’s not one thing,” he said, “but one successful project and another will stabilize not just one town, but a whole region.”

Kevin February 06, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Do PILOT payments ever see their way to the school budget or are they to be as the town sees fit? It seems that Collingswood is very liberal in offering PILOT options in its real estate deals and even more liberal in the length of the PILOT payments. 10 years? The Lumber Yard developers got 20 years if I am not mistaken. If a percentage of these PILOT payments representative of the school portion of our property tax bill doesn't go to the schools, that is a crime.
Joseph Forrest February 06, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Are you kidding??? The borough basically gave it away! I know architects in that building...the building is beautiful and HUGE! Regular people are paying $200,000 to 300,000 for a home in Collingswood, and Kitchen only pays $800,000 for a HUGE commercial building on Haddon Ave?!?! Good job with the fire sale, Maley. One of the few buildings that truly should have had a million dollar+ price tag. And worse yet, a 10 year PILOT for $8,000?! That is obscene! The average grandma in Collingswood is paying $8,000 a year for a modest home. This is an outrage. The borough basically gives away the building AND they charge a FRACTION of what should be owed in taxes for 10 years! Time for a shake up in borough hall. This is insane. Maley and his goons treat Collingswood like their personal game of monopoly.
Aaron Kuhn February 06, 2013 at 09:21 PM
The PILOT offer on this building makes no sense whatsoever. My understanding is that these kinds of offers are usually extended to developers/purchasers as an incentive to invest in dilapidated/aging property/infrastructure. This just seems like preferential treatment. If I lived in Collingswood I'd be wondering where my 1% effective property tax rate is
Aaron Kuhn February 06, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Here's the 2012 budget: http://www.collingswood.com/files/181/2012/06/2012%20Municipal%20Budget%20%28as%20adopted%20June%204,%202012.pdf Take the tax income from properties, calculate as a percentage of the school budget (against/with published tax rates), figure out if the PILOT payments eventually end up in that bucket. Seems like you've got yourself a patch.com expose if there's anything interesting in the results!
Collingswoodnative February 06, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Only sounds like a good deal to the "gang of three" that run this town. I'm repainted a bathroom, wonder if I could get a 10 year PILOT? This grandfather paid $9175 in taxes last year.
bsdtktr February 07, 2013 at 12:40 AM
Only Mayor Bean would consider selling for "only $150,000 below" 1998 prices or costs a good deal. But then again, it's OPM. Giving out PILOTS like it's candy, or crack, take your pick. Where can I get me some? At least this is "only" a 10 year PILOT vs. 25 years at the Blunderyard. Please, somebody, step forward and run for commissioners to replace Maley and his puppets. This has to stop.
Joseph Forrest February 07, 2013 at 03:26 AM
@Kevin - PILOT stands for "Payment in lieu of taxes". It's a direct payment to the borough. The schools, county, and state never see a dime. And for the record- that building is assessed at $1,950,000! The market rate taxes should be $58,000 a year!!! So the borough and it's schools just lost $50,000 a year...that's $500,000 over ten years! The residents of Collingswood need to WAKE UP!!'
Interested Bystander February 07, 2013 at 04:02 AM
Whatever the PILOT is, it's more than that building has ever paid. Schools are tax exempt. So is an office building owned by the Borough. Doesn't anyone remember what the Avenue looked like in the 90s, when we had an eyesore in the middle of town?
Joseph Forrest February 07, 2013 at 04:23 AM
With all due respect...there is a HUGE difference between $8,000 and $58,000 a year in taxes. If it's no big deal, maybe I should only pay $1,000 a year, instead of $8,000. It's absurd to give this scheme a free pass, especially based upon the cliche excuse "well, it's better than nothing". I'm okay that we lost out on $120,000 over the previous 15 years, assuming we use this obscene figure of $8,000 for 1998 to 2013. However, it is highway robbery that the borough gives away $500,000 in TAXPAYER money over 10 years (2013-2023)!!!!!! AND, they sold the building for a song! Kitchen & Assoc. is a prolific architecture firm that has plenty of cash. The borough should have at least pretended to have our interests in mind. Selling a building that is assessed at $1,950,000 for $800,000 is borderline criminal. When will people vote these three jokers out of office? On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of people like you who give the government a free pass by always replying "well....ya know...Collingswood has come a long way since 1992...so lets just turn a blind eye to what goes on."
Joe February 08, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Joseph, we all look forward to seeing your name on the ballot in May. Good luck!
Interested Bystander February 08, 2013 at 11:51 PM
"On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of people like you who give the government a free pass..." Joseph, you misunderstand...I don't give them a 'free pass', I give them a hearty endorsement! And yes, I think there are a lot of people like me who see and admire smart leadership and the ability to suffer a vocal, abusive minority. In general 'we' don't say much because we don't like getting shouted down by the vocal few, which is a point I'm pretty sure someone here will be only too happy to prove...
Joseph Forrest February 09, 2013 at 12:35 AM
I appreciate your best effort to categorize reasonable opposition and facts as "vocal abusive minority". The people who oppose Maley and company are not a minority. Just an "interested bystander", are you? If the cronyism and blatant abuse of government power wasn't so disgusting, it would almost be comical. You're quick to take digs at anyone who highlights the blatant power abuse, yet I rarely hear people like you acknowledge the problem. Sadly enough, for whatever reason, you can't bring yourself to acknowledge or challenge the issues and abuses within the government. It's unbelievable how some people are quick to defend the government. It's a slap in the face to the business owners and other professionals who truly made this town what it is. Maley is an opportunistic attorney with many self interests and beliefs that he allows to rule the borough. Anyone who knows an ounce of fact about the government, knows that they are a bunch of sanctimonious ideologues. The government manages Collingswood like a game of Monopoly, all while passing off their actions as a righteous effort to preserve Collingswood's supposed "Mayberry" image/culture. Their egos and self importance are big enough, so please don't confuse their Monopoly-game-style of government as "smart leadership". Their poor decisions nearly destroyed our finances. They act and plan how they see fit, with no regard for others' input. The businesses, Colls citizens, and the bull market rebuilt this town!
Interested Bystander February 09, 2013 at 01:27 AM
Thanks for proving my point. You speak of 'reasonable opposition and facts', then launch into rhetoric that descends into bullying tones immediately. Please, read what you've written. Cronyism, disgusting, opportunistic, self interested, sanctimonious idealogogues, etc.... This is not the language of 'reasonable' discourse. I will now join Joe, and wait for your name to appear on the ballot...
Joseph Forrest February 09, 2013 at 07:55 AM
Avoidant AND delusional. I have no desire to run for office. I moved to Collingswood 5 years ago, with no biases or information about the borough. It was from first hand accounts - via email, phone, and face-to-face interactions - that I saw the sort of people running this borough. You can be flippant and avoidant all you want. The joke is on you. I'm not some community "activist" like Joe Dinella or whoever else. I'm just a normal citizen who moved to Collingswood and stumbled upon the mountain of small-town nonsense that is Collingswood government. We'll all continue to pay high taxes, while the mayor gives away obscene abatement to wealthy architects...and we'll all sit around and let the government take credit for every piece of good that exists in our borough. Yes...lets all live in the diluted and complacent world that you live in. Cheers!
Will McGowan February 12, 2013 at 12:24 AM
I just want a PILOT option if only for 5 years? How do I apply?
Joseph Forrest February 12, 2013 at 12:27 AM
@Will - if you are a business owner who is seriously posing a question, I suggest you contact Cass Duffy in the development office. If and when you get an answer, be sure to share your findings!
H.Adams February 13, 2013 at 02:38 AM
@haha736-can anyone tell me if there is a way to stop this PILOT? Haven't we taken enough?
Will McGowan February 14, 2013 at 08:16 PM
@Joesph. I wish, my friend. I am just paying a hefty amount in Colls and I figured, if we are giving these away, (as it seems that we are?), I would like to get in line as well!
bsdtktr March 01, 2013 at 10:37 PM
The $800k price is bad enough. Then it's compounded with an unwarranted PILOT worth $500k? So, Mayor Bean is selling the property for something like $300k. NICE! Coming as it is after the Blunderyard 25 year/one entire human generation tax giveaway, it seems that Mayor Bean is acquiring a touch of megalomania.

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