Mind behind the exclusive Avenues School nears deal for huge Brooklyn academy

The Whittle School is in late-stage talks to lease 622K sf at Tishman Speyer’s Wheeler redevelopment

TRD New York /
Mar.March 20, 2019 12:47 PM

Tishman Speyer CEO Rob Speyer and Whittle School CEO Chris Whittle with The Wheeler at 181 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn (Credit: Getty Images and The Whittle School)

Whittle, meet the Wheeler.

Chris Whittle – one of the brains behind the private, for-profit Avenues School – is nearing a deal with Tishman Speyer to make its Wheeler development in Downtown Brooklyn the site of his newest enterprise.

The education entrepreneur’s Whittle School & Studios is in late-stage talks to lease all 622,000 square feet of office space at Tishman’s $500 million redevelopment of the Macy’s store on Fulton Street, sources told The Real Deal.

Terms of the negotiations were not available, but asking rents in the new addition above the department store range from $60s to the $70s per square foot at the top. A source familiar with the negotiations said there’s about a 50/50 chance the deal gets signed.

A spokesperson for Tishman Speyer declined to comment, and a representative for the Whittle School could not be immediately reached. CBRE is representing the Whittle School in negotiations.

The arrival of an exclusive private school in Downtown Brooklyn would be a reflection of – and a boon to – the borough’s gradual Manhattan-ification.

Downtown Brooklyn has added thousands of new apartments in recent years. And just a short walk from the Wheeler, Gary Barnett’s Extell Development is aiming for a record-breaking $901 million sellout for its 68-story condominium tower at the City Point complex known as Brooklyn Point. Tishman is also developing the 481-unit 11 Hoyt condo building nearby.

In Manhattan, the Avenues School has been a major selling point for homebuyers looking to purchase properties in neighborhoods surrounding its West Chelsea location, and has arguably helped boost property prices nearby. Tuition for the 2019-2020 school year is over $56,000.

The school, which Whittle co-founded in 2012, became an option for Manhattan’s wealthy downtown parents who found it inconvenient to send their children to Uptown’s elite private schools. Famous students include the daughter of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. It cost $85 million to launch and develop.

Whittle reportedly broke with his partners at the Avenues School in 2015 over a power struggle, and has raised $700 million for his new initiative.

The Whittle School and Studios plans to open 36 campuses around the world by 2026, including 11 in China. The first two locations are set to open this fall in Shenzhen and Washington, D.C. The institution’s 10-year plan calls for the first New York City school to open in 2021, and a second school in the five boroughs by 2026.

Tishman Speyer, meanwhile, is in the midst of construction work on its 622,000-square-foot redevelopment of the Macy’s store at 422 Fulton Street.

The developer, with China’s HNA Group as its equity partner, is adding 10 new floors and integrating the former upper floors of Macy’s department store.

Tishman Speyer in 2016 finalized a $270 million deal for the property with Macy’s, which was looking to shed real estate assets amid a challenging retail environment. Macy’s got $170 million for the property and an additional $100 million in renovations for a smaller department store at the location.

Bank of Ozarks the following year provided Tishman with a $194 million construction loan for the redevelopment, which is scheduled for completion later this year.


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