Although it’s been difficult to do in a poor economy, Royal Oak Schools finally begins to sell former school properties. The latest set of lots to be sold are just around the corner from my house, at the site of the former Longfellow Elementary.
Due to decades of steadily declining enrollments, the Royal Oak School District faced tough challenges with regard to budget. Even though they advertised cross-district open enrollments, school populations continued to fall. During the 2006-2007 school year, a decision was made to consolidate schools, raze old school buildings and put the properties up for sale. This might have been a great real estate coup resulting in extra income for the cash-strapped district, except for the fact that the housing market took a nosedive during this time.
One former school lot has been converted to a community garden. The Longfellow lot of 1.27 acres was sold for $560,000. It is located at 11 Mile Road just east of Woodward. Part has been zoned for commercial (on the 11 Mile front), while the rest will be residential. Plans for the residential lots include designs that are consistent with the neighborhood, which is in the older part of Royal Oak adjacent to the downtown area. Most of the homes in this area were built in the 1920s, and many of them were “kit” Craftsman homes (i.e. mail order houses from Sears or Aladdin). Thankfully, in order to keep with the feel of the neighborhood, new homes erected on old lots stay in the same theme and architectural style.
At its peak, Royal Oak Schools included two high schools, four middle schools and eighteen elementary schools. Once consolidation was complete, the district now has one high school, one middle school and six elementary schools.
Although the real estate market has been tenuous in recent years, it’s good to see developers interested in these lots. Not only does the school district benefit from the sales of these vacant lots, the neighborhoods and city gain as well.