In the wake of de Blasio’s move, the charter school powerhouse could be in the market for real estate.
After Mayor Bill de Blasio blocked the co-location and expansion of three Success Academies, the charter school empire headed by former city council member Eva Moskowitz, the question remains as to where her displaced schools could find a home in the city’s current real estate market.
Success’ needs are massive. For instance, one of the schools scuttled by de Blasio, in lower Manhattan, planned on phasing in anywhere from 450-600 kindergarten to eighth-grade students at Murry Bergtraum through the 2017-18 school year. Typically, the DOE calls for 20 square feet of space per pupil, putting the space allocation for such a school at roughly 9,000-12,000-square-feet, plus room for things like a library, auditorium and gymnasium.
Up until now, of course, Success Academy has functioned rent-free. But now, with tensions with de Blasio rising, Moskowitz could find herself in the market for real estate. Given its unique needs, where in Manhattan could and should she start looking?
According to Paul Proulx, a land use and zoning lawyer with Holland and Knight, there’s no shortage of potential locations below Canal Street as far as the city’s zoning laws are concerned.
“A school constitutes a community facility use, which is widely permitted in Manhattan, except for in districts that also permit light manufacturing uses,” said Proulx. “As a zoning lawyer and Financial District resident with school-age children, I’ve researched it and I can tell you that, with the exception of a three-block manufacturing district that extends a few blocks west from the intersection of Walker Street and Canal Street, there is nowhere below Canal Street where a school use would not be permitted.”
Added Proulx: “With the shortage of seats in our district, a charter school would certainly be welcome.”
According to Faith Hope Consolo, chair of the Manhattan realty juggernaut Douglas Elliman, Success Academy would do well to outfit a large-scale former retail building.
“A big box retailer makes the most sense, depending on the size of the school. It will need to be retrofitted, and security measures put in place, but we should have some vacancies coming up in the not-too-distant future,” said Consolo.
Consolo said Success Academy could look in the World Trade Center area or at the Alexandria condo building on the Upper West Side at 72th Street and Broadway. “The Alexandria seems to have large spaces that might work – but whether residential buildings would want this is another matter,” said Consolo. “An older, small warehouse, or even an auto dealership might be convertible as well.”
Consolo also broached the possibility of converting several vacant storefronts into a school, though the renovation on such a project could lead to a hefty bill before kids are even in the door.
For Eli Verschleiser, CEO of Multi Group of Companies, the possibilities are endless.
“New building permits are getting close to the pre-crash numbers and developers are looking to maximize on their buildable square footage by adding a community facility component to their plans,” said Verschleiser. “There are many new construction projects in the these areas that are looking for community facility tenants.”
As an example, Verschleiser mentioned a project MGC is involved in on William Street that has 30,000-square-feet of available space and would be suitable for a charter school.
“Being that developers need the community facility tenant, as defined by the zoning code as specific type of tenant, rents are not as high as a regular tenant would pay,” said Verschleiser.
Of course, this is all assuming that Moskowitz’s forthcoming litigation – she has vowed to take de Blasio to court over his decision – ultimately fails, and that she’ll be forced to trawl real estate listings for potential leads. If that’s the case, consider this a primer on where in your neighborhood Success Academy could wind up.
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