For years, the vacant Columbus School on a busy corner of East North Avenue appeared to be nothing more than a giant planter. Leafy tree branches stuck out over the top of the historic red-brick walls, making it seem like the school's only future inhabitants would be squirrels and birds.
But Kevin Bell and Michael Barland saw more. They are investing about $14 million into the run-down 120-year-old building, also known as Public School 99, to make it livable for dozens of families.
"We're going to be proud of this," Bell said after he emerged from the neo-Romanesque building on a recent weekday, hard hat in hand.
Bell is senior vice president of development for...