The Nutter administration on Wednesday announced a detailed, multifaceted plan to sell or find new uses for 31 of the School District of Philadelphia's closed school buildings.
The mayor promised a "more streamlined, flexible, and predictable" process that includes a comprehensive assessment of each site. The city and the district also said they would create a website and host public meetings on the overall plan and the fate of specific locations.
But the announcement, in the form of a news release, neglected to mention one thing: that Nutter and City Council remain locked in an epic face-off over how to handle the mothballed schools.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke wants the city to pay $50 million for the district's empty buildings, then turn them over to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development to market and sell.
The district needs the money in the coming months to help solve a $304 million budget shortfall.
Nutter has proposed Council follow the outlines of a state bailout package, which calls for the city to borrow the $50 million against future collections of the city's extra 1 percent sales tax.
Clarke says his plan would spare Philadelphia from having to pay $10 million in interest on such a loan, and he thinks the city could earn back the $50 million through the sale of the school buildings.
The Nutter administration, however, has been working for months with the district on a reuse plan for old schools - work that began well before the empty buildings were pulled into the current funding crisis.
Last week, the School Reform Commission approved a new policy that allows for "expedited sale" of desirable properties. The district already has budgeted $28 million from the sale of schools in its five-year financial plan.
The 31 buildings in question include 24 schools that were shuttered earlier this year. The most commonly-cited candidate for sale is the former University City High School, a 14-acre plot just north of Market Street near Drexel University.
Schools Superintendent William R. Hite said in Wednesday's release that "we appreciate the city of Philadelphia's participation in developing a strategic approach and implementation plan."
Through his spokeswoman, Clarke said he was "gratified" that Nutter and Hite "are taking concerns about these 31 empty properties seriously."
Selling buildings, the Council president said, would raise much-needed cash and alleviate community concerns over the large vacant properties.
"I am hopeful that, together, we can upend this city's unfortunate reputation for indifference to vacancy and blight," Clarke said.