Week of June 25, 2001
  Snapshot from the Field
James F. Oyster Bilingual Elementary School rendering
Public-Private Creativity Funds New D.C. School without Tax Dollars
By JACK LYNESite Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing

A school grows in D.C. - without a taxpayer dollar spent: a rendering
of the new Oyster Elementary that will officially open in September.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- -- Would it be OK if they built a brand-new four-story elementary school in your community without spending a single taxpayer dollar?
        Granted, the idea sounds like a prime-cut pipe dream. That's just what's happened, though, with the 47,158-sq.-ft. (4,195-sq.-m.) James F. Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Washington, D.C., where a creative land exchange was the catalyst in a unique public/private partnership. There was more than a little need for a new home for the 350-student Oyster Elementary. The new facility replaces a structure built all the way back in 1926. The just completed facility, in fact, is the first new public school built in the District of Columbia in the last 20 years. The old (now demolished) Oyster Elementary had become so cramped for space that its after-school programs were housed in a converted closet.
        Replacing the decrepit old structure are 15 roomy classrooms painted yellow and green, plus a computer lab, a library and a gym.
        The construction and financing for that transformation came courtesy of a creative partnership between the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and LCOR Inc. (www.lcor.com), a Berwyn, Pa.-based real estate firm that specializes in public/private development. Kennedy
        LCOR Executive Vice President R. William Hard praised the DCPS and local government officials for "embracing the innovative financing plan that made the new school possible, and for accepting the rewards and tradeoffs that accompany a genuine public/private partnership. "District officials demonstrated leadership . . . with their commitment to this project, including their willingness to unlock the value of an underutilized asset -- in this case, land," Hard explained.

LCOR's $10 billion portfolio of developments either completed or under construction includes the JFK International Air Terminal/Delta expansion, part of the largest public/private airport project in U.S. history.

Bond Issue Will Be Repaid from
Revenues from New Apartment Complex

Here's what's behind the deal, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States: Construction costs for Oyster Elementary were financed by a 35-year, US$11 million tax-exempt bond package issued by the District of Columbia. The $11 million bond issue will be repaid in its entirety from new revenue generated by Henry Adams House. The Adams House is a $29 million, 211-unit apartment complex that LCOR is developing on land adjacent to Oyster Elementary. The Adams House land was previously part of the school site. The tract was traded to LCOR under its partnership agreement with the DCPS.
        The apartment complex, owned by a joint venture between LCOR and Northwestern Mutual Life, will generate far more than enough to pay for the school. D.C. officials said that LCOR will pay $804,000 per year to the city in lieu of taxes for the next 35 years. LCOR, which has a nearby regional office in Bethesda, Md., will manage the Adams House project.
        The new facility provides a structure much more in tune with Oyster Elementary's nationally recognized dual-language immersion program. The bilingual English-Spanish program has proved so popular that some parents who live outside Oyster's attendance zone camped for days this year outside the school while seeking to enroll their children.
        "The old building was a barrier to providing Oyster's diverse educational experience, including the dual-language immersion program, special education, physical education, arts and other programs," said Oyster School Principal Paquita Holland, who's retiring this summer. "The new building is a dream come true for our students, our teachers and our program."

21st Century Fund Brokers Deal

Appropriately, the tradition-breaking deal was brokered by an untraditional player: the 21st Century School Fund (www.21csf.org), a D.C.-based nonprofit focused on improving urban public school facilities. The 21st Century Fund had its genesis in 1992, when Mary Filardo, the parent of two Oyster Elementary students, organized the Woodley Park community to oppose the school's dilapidated conditions.
        By the time the 21st Century School Fund was founded in 1995, the D.C. school system had operated for more than 20 years without a long-range facilities plan. And it had also eliminated almost all funding for new construction and facility modernization.
        "Beginning in 1992, this community had the vision, determination and dedication needed to make this partnership work," said Filardo, now the 21st Century Fund's executive director. "We developed a solution that fit the unique needs and maximized the available assets of the Oyster community, resulting in a partnership where everyone benefits."

D.C. System Plans Nine New Schools

The 21st Century School Fund has been so successful, in fact, that it now works with urban schools nationwide.
        Oyster Elementary is the first facility to open in the DCPS's announced campaign to build and open nine city schools by 2004. But construction is under way at only three other district schools. Filardo, however, remained hopeful.
        "While public/private development partnerships are not a cure-all for the lack of public school construction funds, they will continue to be an important mechanism for generating revenue and contributing to economic growth," she said. "They're also helpful in building momentum towards more sustainable, comprehensive capital improvement programs."

sf0625sf0625 ©2001 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.