SUWANEE -- Board of Education members Thursday night approved the $52 million purchase of district headquarters in Suwanee, ending a years-long lease with a private investment group.
Originally purchased in 2004, Gwinnett County Public Schools officials sold the Instructional Support Center in 2005 in order to generate the money to build two new elementary schools and part of a third one.
When it was sold in 2005, investors leasing it back to GCPS agreed to renovate the former manufacturing plant into a central office. The district had been leasing the property back since 2005.
Included in lease agreement details was the option for the district to buy the central office facility back on July 1, 2013. In a unanimous vote Thursday, the board approved its purchase for $52 million effective on the agreed-upon date.
Since 2005, the district has paid $26 million in lease payments.
Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost said that the decision to buy the building in 2004 -- and then again in 2013 -- was financially sound.
"Even though the dollar amount of leasing for nine years was higher than the original purchase price ($12.5 million), the fact is we've had nine years to use that money and use it for these three elementary schools," Cost said.
District spokeswoman Sloan Roach said that when the district sold the property in 2005 (for $17 million), it was "during a time when we had some extreme needs for classrooms."
Officials with GCPS used the proceeds from the 2005 sale to build Mulberry Elementary, Patrick Elementary and part of Lovin Elementary School.
Roach said that the district's "goal, all along, has been to buy the building and to own it."
The 370,000 square-foot facility sits on 46 acres and serves the needs of about 750 support staff, who are housed there. In addition, the space is used for school board meetings, training and professional development.
The ISC is located at 437 Old Peachtree Road N.W., Suwanee.