Sheppard Pratt Health System is considering moving its special education school from its Towson campus to a former high school in Baltimore, the hospital said yesterday.
The psychiatric care provider has a contract to buy the former Seton High School building and neighboring Dell House apartments in Charles Village. A final decision has not been made on uses for the buildings, but the school is a strong possibility, said Lindsay Thompson, project liaison for Sheppard Pratt.
The Forbush School, which educates students age 4 to 21 with behavior and other problems, must vacate its building in Towson within the next five years. It sits on property Sheppard Pratt recently agreed to sell to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, a hospital with an adjacent campus.
School officials wanted to relocate to the city to ease the commute for many of its students who live in Baltimore, Thompson said. The school's principal could not be reached for comment yesterday.
"It's a very beautiful building," Thompson said of the turn-of-the-century, five-story school building, which was renovated and turned into offices in the late 1980s after Seton merged with Archbishop Keogh High School. Thompson said they expected to maintain it in its present form.
The school building was most recently used by Aetna US Healthcare, but has been empty since last month when its lease expired, said Tim Hearn, a broker at KLNB Inc. Commercial Real Estate Services and a member of Sheppard Pratt's board of directors. Hearn worked with KLNB President Tom Martel, who represented the seller, Partners Management, an investment affiliate of the Knott family.
Sheppard Pratt also bought 175 parking spaces and the apartment building but has not yet determined a use for that building.
The 2.5-acre site, which is bound by Maryland Avenue and Charles, 28th and 29th streets, was offered for sale for almost $5.5 million. Thompson said the sale price was close to that.
Hearn said there was a lot of interest in the property from a range of businesses, including development and technology companies.
The neighborhood expects to meet with representatives from Sheppard Pratt to get more information on plans for the property.
"We'd like to see a vibrant use that contributes to the life of the community, that has a positive impact on the community," said Daniel Kloche, director of the Charles Village Community Benefits District, which provides additional services in the area and monitors development. "Everything depends on their plans."
Sheppard Pratt's hospital has been dealing with changes by managed care insurers, which have reduced the number and length of inpatient stays. However, the taxpayer-funded school, founded in 1968, has reported increases in enrollment in recent years.