Aventura-based firm ESJ Capital Partners, which invests in charter schools nationwide, just added another Florida charter school to its portfolio.
Records show ESJ Capital purchased a 38,588-square-foot elementary school at 1518 West Lantana Road called Palm Beach Maritime Academy. The trade breaks down to about $187 per square foot. The property is the elementary portion of the publicly-funded K-12 center. The trade includes a ground lease of a small 4,546-square-foot retail building on the property anchored by a McDonald’s and Dollar General.
Palm Beach Maritime Museum Inc., is the seller. Records show the museum bought the school for $8.6 million in 2014 – meaning it traded for 17 percent less three years later. ESJ Capital Chief Investment Officer Matthew Fuller said ESJ also owns its nearby middle school facility at 600 South East Coast Avenue.
Fuller said ESJ owns about 21 charter schools nationwide with a majority in Florida. The investment firm, which recently acquired Jungle Island, began investing in charter schools about eight years ago, sometimes in partnership with MG3 Development Group, another local firm.
Fuller said ESJ plans to invest $400 million in educational facilities, but construction costs and lengthy application processes create constraints to charter school development in Florida. “The market is deserving of growth,” Fuller said, but “we don’t want to over build.”
Though they’re publicly funded, charter schools still have to pay rent if they don’t own their facilities — translating to steady income for investors. Last year ESJ sold five charter schools in Riverview, Vero Beach, Coral Springs, Davie and Plantation for $71.7 million. W.P. Carey, another developer actively purchasing charter schools, purchased a Broward County preparatory school for $68.6 million last year as part of a larger $167 million deal to acquire three U.S. private academies.