Are We Moving?
Over the past two years, Menlo Park Academy (MPA) provided periodic updates related to our facilities planning. This past year, planning, and decision making amplified as we prepare to answer the question in simplest terms, where is MPA’s home? In the last Board Beacon newsletter, we announced our school hired a “tenant representative.” Tenant representatives help organizations, like MPA, avoid pitfalls, uncover opportunities, save time and money, and leverage expertise in commercial real estate with an objective of fulfilling MPA’s defined real estate needs. With the accelerated progress since partnering with our tenant representative, there are several updates to share with our community.
Review the updates below. Process this information knowing that (1) we have not ruled out modifications to our current location, and (2) MPA as an Ohio Community School must locate within the city of Cleveland (or other approved district such as Lorain or Akron – seelink for more details).
The major considerations for our school are cliché but “location, location, location.” To remain a tuition-free community school, our future is Cleveland. Within Cleveland, as we continue to draw students from 45+ communities, we prioritize interstate accessibility.
Specific to a building, MPA worked with our tenant representative to define a “program” outlining the space needed in our ideal scenario. The cumulative space requirements, with future full enrollment at approximately 415 students, is projected at 47,000 square feet (this includes circulation space/hallways). Our current main building is about 26,000 square feet. Some of the details included in the program are:
a. 19 Regular classrooms
b. 5 Office spaces
d. Gymnasium/multi-purpose room
e. Science labs
f. Technology labs
g. Art studio & music room
h. Reception area
j. Conference rooms
k. Work areas
Board members met with our current landlord at St. Mel Parish as well as representatives from the Diocese of Cleveland. This fall, St. Mel Parish agreed to potential options to develop and/or add space to their building/our current location. This is being considered along with our other options.
The team visited several potential sites each which met the majority of our program needs. Warehouse spaces (space “shell” to be built out to our specifications), and multiple vacant/available (also requiring significant refurbishment/remodeling) were assessed to date.
The team has also met with several potential developers. What is the role of a developer? In simple terms, a developer will be MPA’s partner in creating the necessary spaces to execute our program. An organization like this can also serve as our landlord if the site we select is available for sale. The property could be taken over by the developer, fully renovated to our needs and MPA would lease back the space.
There is a bit of praise to share with our community. MPA is rare in Ohio Community school circles in that our sponsor did not renew MPA to a traditional two or five year charter renewal but a ten year renewal. It is this well-earned promise of longevity by our sponsor that empowers us to be welcomed to the table by developers. It is partnering with a developer to radically transform any potential new location into a true home by August 2014 that makes this process unique to our prior facilities decisions.
Next up includes selecting a developer, interviewing potential architecture firms, reviewing potential expansion plans for St. Mel's, further serious exploration of a large former school building on Cleveland’s near-west side, and potential additional site visits.
The answer to the question “are we moving” is still being explored. Experts, board committee, full Board, and our administrative team continue to move quickly and responsibly forward on this top priority. We will continue to provide updated information on a monthly basis.