Charter school picks up $15M Harlem site

By Sarabeth Sanders | June 08, 2010 08:00PM

32 West 125th Street (source: PropertyShark)

Harlem Village Academies, the successful charter school network touted by Mayor Mike Bloomberg last year as “the poster child” for education reform in the U.S., has closed on a deal to acquire a two-story, Con Edison-owned property at 32 West 125th Street for $14.9 million, according to a deed filed today with the city.

With up to $42 million in funding from the city’s School Construction Authority, HVA ultimately plans to open a five-story, 400-student charter school for grades 6 through 12 at the site, according to an agreement also filed today.

The purchase gives the city’s other charter schools yet another reason to be envious of HVA, which has already drawn attention from the likes of New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and ex-football star Tiki Barber for its top-notch rankings and high test scores. At a time when some charters are scrounging for classroom space — inciting the resentment of many a public school neighbor — HVA, which currently operates two middle schools and a high school, all out of leased Harlem spaces, is building anew.

Still, it’s not alone. As the New York Times first reported, building for charter schools has experienced a boom relative to the city’s recent construction slowdown. The Mott Haven Academy Charter School in the South Bronx is slated to move into its new 54,000-square-foot building — the gut renovation and expansion of a vacant, century-old building — this year. A new space for the nearby South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and Arts is also in the works.

As for HVA, its planned 56,000-square-foot school will occupy the second through fifth floors and parts of the ground and basement levels at 32 West 125th Street, the agreement states. Up to 9,000 square feet on the ground floor and 2,500 square feet in the basement will be used for retail.

Per the agreement, HVA plans to transfer the property to the School Construction Authority, which will lease the portion intended for the school to Civic Builders, a New York City-based non-profit charter school developer. HVA will operate its new school under a sublease with Civic.

Representatives from HVA and Con Edison were not immediately available for comment.