Currently Reading

Developers are repositioning vacant space as charter schools

Adaptive Reuse

Developers are repositioning vacant space as charter schools

Transwestern is working with the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools to provide a turnkey solution.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | August 13, 2021

The 58,000-sf Neighborhood Charter School in The Bronx, N.Y., was previously a warehouse. Transwestern is offering its services to move charter schools into vacant commercial properties. Image: Transwestern

A nexus of growing demand for charter schools and a pandemic-driven increase in commercial vacancies is presenting adaptive reuse opportunities to developers and AEC firms.

Charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of U.S. education, with California, Florida, and Texas leading the pack. One in five students in Arizona is enrolled in a charter school.

There are more than 3.3 million students enrolled in 7,500-plus charter schools in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, with a waiting list of nearly 2 million more, according to the National Alliance for Public Schools, a leading nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of the public charter school movement.

Finding real estate “has always been a challenge” for charter school owner-operators, says Mark Medema, Managing Director of the Alliance’s Charter School Facility Center. In response, more charter schools are finding homes in repurposed commercial spaces that, in many cases, were vacated by tenants during the coronavirus pandemic that led companies, cities, and states to impose occupancy restrictions.

So in San Antonio, a charter school now fills an empty grocery store; in Austin, a vacant Costco has been repurposed; in New York, two floors of a public housing complex in Harlem now serve as a charter school.

Medema says that empty retail space is presenting the greatest opportunity, as charter schools typically need 30,000 to 50,000 sf of space, and sometimes much more. He notes that in the Dallas market, a charter school took over the lease of a shopping mall’s anchor store that closed.

 

A TURNKEY REPOSITIONING APPROACH

The Alliance has also been watching how the real estate consulting firm Transwestern has been helping its clients in urban centers return to their offices. The Alliance and Transwestern have joined forces to devise a turnkey solution that leverages high vacancy rates in certain markets and product types to address the need for more educational space.

Casey Noel, Transwestern’s Vice President-nonprofit advisory services, says old warehouses in urban markets are being transformed into charter schools. “The conversion costs are relatively low, and the zoning can be conducive,” says Noel. He adds that certain municipalities offer developers community facility density bonuses, which fit how charter school repositionings often build out. “Owners and developers are looking for ‘buildabilty,’ ” he says.

Transwestern starts this process as a consultant, interacting with charter school boards and finding suitable real estate. Its knowledge of city and state policies, as they pertain to charter schools and real estate conversions, is invaluable, says Noel. Transwestern’s involvement ends when a school signs a lease.

 

AN ‘IDEAL’ TENANT

Noel says that it takes at least 18 months to convert a warehouse into a charter school, although the conversion period for any space depends on size, location, and the condition and adaptability of the property.

Medema thinks that developers should be jumping at the chance to reposition vacant commercial space as a charter school. “Charters are ideal tenants because they produce a steady revenue stream, are government funded, have stable enrollments, and are almost recession proof.”

The Alliance’s objective is to foster the option of a charter school education to every family that wants it for their children. Medema doesn’t envision charter schools ever surpassing public school, but he does see their market share—currently at around 6.5% of all public-school students—hitting or even exceeding 10% eventually.

Related Stories

Adaptive Reuse | Aug 25, 2021

The first net-zero hotel in the U.S. is nearing completion in Connecticut

Solar arrays will provide the electricity for the Hotel Marcel, whose name recalls the building’s original designer.

Hotel Facilities | Jun 18, 2021

Adaptive reuse for hospitality, with Frank Cretella of Landmark Developers

In an exclusive interview for HorizonTV, Landmark Developers' President Frank Cretella talks about the firm's adaptive reuse projects for the hospitality sector. Cretella outlines his company's keys to success in hospitality development, including finding unique properties and creating memorable spaces.

Adaptive Reuse | Jun 2, 2021

An old Ford factory in Pittsburgh is being adapted to become a biomedical research facility

This is the latest step in the city’s post-industrial resurgence.

Adaptive Reuse | Apr 15, 2021

The Weekly Show, Apr 15, 2021: The ins and outs of adaptive reuse, and sensors for real-time construction monitoring

This week on The Weekly show, BD+C editors speak with AEC industry leaders from PBDW Architects and Wohlsen Construction about what  makes adaptive reuse projects successful, and sensors for real-time monitoring of concrete construction.

Adaptive Reuse | Feb 24, 2021

Adaptive reuse project brings co-living space to Los Angeles’s Hancock Park

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects is designing the project.

Adaptive Reuse | Feb 14, 2021

Three adaptive reuse projects will add housing in Wisconsin

Historic tax credits helped pave the way, but preservation required creative solutions.

Multifamily Housing | Jan 20, 2021

Abandoned Miami hospital gets third life as waterfront condo development

The 1920s King Cole Hotel becomes the Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami in the largest residential adaptive reuse project in South Florida.

Adaptive Reuse | Dec 17, 2020

A train engine repair building is turned into an innovation center that’s part of a massive riverfront redevelopment in Pittsburgh

The adaptive reuse of the Roundhouse is the latest step forward for Hazelwood Green.

Adaptive Reuse | Oct 26, 2020

Mall property redevelopments could result in dramatic property value drops

Retail conversions to fulfillment centers, apartments, schools, or medical offices could cut values 60% to 90%.

Adaptive Reuse | Oct 22, 2020

A Los Angeles design firm reimagines urban workplaces, multifamily buildings, and warehouses

Omgivning conjures varieties of adaptive-reuse concepts.  

More In Category





Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: