old abandoned building

Fix, Sell, Repurpose or Raze? Aging Facilities Prompt Tough Decisions

Cities, states, and school districts are taking a variety of approaches regarding underused and closed buildings, including repurposing or selling them.   February 6, 2024

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor 

For decades, state and local governments and school districts have struggled to properly manage and maintain aging facilities. One result has been a backlog of maintenance needs that has grown larger and more costly each year. As taxpayer support for maintaining these facilities wavers and population demographics shift, these entities must make tough choices about unused or underused facilities: Fix them, sell them, repurpose them or demolish them? Each approach has its own challenges. 

In Kansas, the board of regents recently allocated $16.5 million to turn to rubble 500,000 square feet of obsolete buildings on university campuses, according to KAKE. After the dust clears from removal of those 20 buildings, officials said, the work would eliminate an estimated $80 million in deferred maintenance obligations. 

In Massachusetts, the state’s 140-year-old prison in Concord soon will shut down under a new state budget plan, according to WHDH. In addition to nearly $16 million in immediate savings, the closure will negate the need for $190 million in capital projects for decarbonization, cooling and deferred maintenance at the prison. 

In Ohio, a task force will help Columbus City Schools officials determine which of the district's 113 school buildings and other facilities should close starting in 2025, according to WOSU. The district spends more on its facilities and maintenance per school compared to other similar districts, which could be related to the age of the buildings. The district spends $544,000 per Columbus school building compared to $459,000 nationally. 

In Colorado, schools across the state are closing schools. Jefferson County shut down 16 elementary schools last year. One cause of the issues is declining birth rates, which have driven a significant drop in school-aged children in the state, according to Colorado Public Radio. Colorado’s school population has declined by about 30,000 students since a peak of 913,223 in 2019. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor for the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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