The Real Deal Miami

Holy grounds? Charter school operator buys Coral Springs church

Church decided to sell due to damage caused by Hurricane Irma
By Amanda Rabines | August 21, 2018 12:30PM

First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs, 2251 Riverside Drive and Academica’s Fernando Zulueta

A major charter school operator paid $10 million for the site of a First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs and its Coral Springs Christian Academy, property records show.

Riverside School Development LLC, an affiliate of Academica Corp., closed on the nearly 10-acre site at 2251 Riverside Drive. The deal includes an 88,000-square-foot facility and a baseball park on the northeast corner of Riverside Drive and Royal Palm Boulevard.

Faced with extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, the First Presbyterian Church congregation voted to sell the campus in January, according to published reports.

Records show Somerset Academy Inc. wants a five-year contract to operate a K-5 charter school on the site called Somerset Riverside Charter School. Somerset would manage the school until June 2023.

Academica Corp. is a for-profit charter school company that manages the Mater Academies, Somerset Academies, Doral Academies and the Pinecrest Academies, among other school systems. Academica also owns and manages schools in Georgia, Texas, Nevada, Utah and California, according to its website. It was founded in 1999 by real estate investors and developers Fernando and Ignacio Zulueta.

Charter schools have caught the attention of developers since their inception more than two decades ago. Though they’re publicly funded, charter schools pay rent if they don’t own their facilities — translating to steady income for investors.

Other investors active in South Florida include Charter School Capital, ESJ Capital Partners and Jeffrey Miller – brother of Lennar Corp.’s Stuart Miller – who recently paid $8.45 million for a charter school in Opa-locka.