PITTSBURG -- The old Central Junior High School, which has been vacant for more than four years, is slated to become an apartment community.

The school shut down in September 2008, three months after the last students attended, in response to safety concerns about natural gas lines that ran underneath the property. Ranchos Medanos Junior High was built at a new location to replace Central, which was declared to be surplus property and put up for sale.

In January, Idaho-based Pacific West Communities Inc. made an offer to buy Central for $250,000. Escrow is expected to close in June, said Caleb Roope, president and chief executive officer of Pacific West.

Under the terms of the sale, proceeds will go to the state and not the district.

That's because the state provided funding to build Rancho Medanos, according to Enrique Palacios, associate superintendent for the Pittsburg Unified School District. However, the district does stand to reap some financial benefit down the road, thanks to the developer having to pay school impact fees. Depending on how many apartments are built, those fees would translate into between $1.3 million and $3.1 million.

The property is located near the intersection of Loveridge Road and Stoneman Avenue. Before building can start, city approvals need to be obtained. Roope hopes to submit plans to the city by July.

"We want to build some multifamily housing, some affordable apartments, probably up to 200 units on the site," Roope said, adding that monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment would likely be around $1,000.


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If the required approvals are obtained, Roope hopes to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2013 and have the project completed about a year later.

Central was shut down after a study commissioned by Pittsburg Unified found that four of five water and gas pipelines in the area run directly beneath the campus, putting staff and students at risk, although the decades-old pipelines had never caused problems in the past. The study was initiated in response to increasing awareness of old pipelines and recent pipeline accidents, including a November 2004 gas line explosion that killed five workers and injured four others as they were digging beside Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek.

Roope said it is not unusual for residential developments to be built in the vicinity of natural gas pipelines. School districts, on the other hand, have much stricter regulations to follow when it comes to safety issues and the location of natural gas pipelines.

The former junior high was viewed as an appropriate site for a new apartment community for several reasons, he said.

"It's a reuse of a facility. It avoids urban sprawl. It's high-density infill. There are services nearby, shopping and transportation and parks. This is a good location," Roope said.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.