After years of often frustrating negotiations, the state of California has signaled its intention to sell part of the shuttered Agnews Developmental Center for a high school, K-8 school and a park.
The Santa Clara Unified School District and the city of San Jose plan to announce Tuesday afternoon that they have been selected as the preferred joint bidders. The two are partners in a multimillion-dollar bid for land that once housed a state mental institution.
Once built -- perhaps in five years at the earliest -- the schools will accommodate students from thousands of homes being constructed in the burgeoning North San Jose area.
The state Department of General Services emailed the city and school district on Friday.
"I'm elated," said Santa Clara Unified Superintendent Stan Rose, who nevertheless remains cautious about the notification, after the district spent five years in on-again, off-again talks with the state. Other bidders -- the state wouldn't reveal their identity nor the number of bids -- have five days to object, then details and conditions still must be negotiated.
Rose would not reveal the exact bid amount but noted the 81-acre parcel had been appraised at $1 million per acre.
"I'm tentatively excited," said Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who helped broker talks and also introduced legislation to further the land acquisition.
Likewise, San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu, whose district includes North San Jose, was measured in his reaction: "We took it as very good news."
If the negotiations are successful, the next hurdle for Santa Clara Unified, whose boundaries extend into North San Jose, is to pass a bond measure to finance the construction of two schools. Proceeds from bonds approved in 2010 will fund the purchase of the land. The district envisions the schools will focus on technology and science, benefiting from partnerships the district hopes to forge with high-tech firms in the region.
"We couldn't do anything until we had a property," he said.
The land, at 3500 Zanker Road near Montague Expressway, sits in the middle of property San Jose has planned for intensive residential and business development. Developers are building 32,000 homes, and the city hopes the area will generate 83,000 jobs.
To accommodate the influx, Santa Clara Unified needs to build a third high school, as well as an elementary and middle school, which might be combined in a K-8. San Jose has planned one or two regional parks and multiple smaller parks with cricket and softball fields, tennis courts, pools, picnic areas and trails.
Early on, school and city planners had eyed the sprawling Agnews site, which the state shuttered in 2009 after 120 years as a residential and outpatient center serving the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. Another part of the site was purchased in 1997 by Sun Microsystems.
Last spring, the school district offered $64 million while the state sought $71 million for a smaller, 54-acre Agnews parcel, according to Wieckowski. While the state can sell land below market rates for parks and open space, it can't do that for schools.
So San Jose joined the negotiations, seeking parkland and boosting the offer to $76 million for a larger parcel.
The Department of General Services rejected that offer and called for bids on the property.
Since submitting their bid by the Nov. 21 deadline, the district and city had received no indication of the outcome, nor of any state interest, Rose said. So Friday's email came as a complete surprise.
Rose's predecessor as superintendent, Bobbie Plough, spent many days of her two-year tenure with Santa Clara Unified seeking to acquire the Agnews land. But the state had given no indication that it shared in the district's interest in the property.
Of the tentative success of the bid, she said, "I'm thrilled. I'm so happy for the district and for the families in the area."
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.