An effort to build a charter high school behind a Gilbert church is ending, according to a joint statement released this week.
Great Hearts Academies and the First United Methodist Church of Gilbert cited economic factors in the decision to cancel a lease agreement signed for 10 acres behind the church at 331 S. Cooper Road. Great Hearts had wanted to relocate Chandler Preparatory Academy.
The plan faced opposition from neighbors worried about traffic and other potential impacts, though the plan never reached the point of needing town approval.
Veronica Ross, president of the Candlewood Homeowners Association, was overjoyed when told the campus wouldn't be built in her neighborhood.
"I can't tell you the weight that's just been taken off our shoulders, and it's been there for the last two years," she said.
The school had planned to build classroom buildings, an auditorium that was supposed to be shared with the church, and athletic fields.
Great Hearts CEO Daniel Scoggin said the real estate market crash will allow the schools to save millions of dollars by buying an existing, vacant building at a lower price.
"No one knew this would happen. Our money can go so much further," he said.
He said Chandler Prep has 420 students this school year and will have 550 next fall. It will soon outgrow its current home in East Valley Mall at Arizona Avenue and Warner Road, Scoggin said.
Great Hearts is currently looking at three sites in Chandler, and the school will likely relocate in 2010 or 2011.
Daniel Morley, senior pastor of the church, said he and others were disappointed that Great Hearts had withdrawn from the property. He said the plan also had supporters in the area and that the church would continue to look for a tenant for the property.
"We're striving to find out what our best use is for the property, not just for the congregation, but also how we can serve the community," he said.
Ross, though, is elated that the plan is off.
"Now I won't have to listen to football games on Friday night and pick up the trash from my yard after everybody leaves," she said.