Left: Japanese maple trees were planted in the Soho Mews’ private garden over the weekend (photo by Jefferson Siegel). Right: Greenwich Village High School just signed a deal to open in 30 Vandam St. next year (photo by Patrick Hedlund).
By Patrick Hedlund
Soho school deal
The Greenwich Village High School’s hunt for a Downtown home has led the fledgling private school to Soho, where it will open next year in a loft building on Vandam St. The announcement came after the school inked a deal to take over two-and-a-half floors covering 12,000 square feet at 30 Vandam St., between Sixth Ave. and Varick St.
The location is well positioned between the Village and Lower Manhattan to draw students from Downtown and beyond. According to representatives for the high school, which will rent the current space for ten years, G.V.H.S. will have options on two additional floors in the six-story building as enrollment expands and the space becomes available.
“We considered many locations, and by far this is the most appealing,” said school co-founder Aimee Bell. She added that the property’s landlord, Mark Epstein, a member of The Cooper Union’s board of trustees, maintains a commitment to education and will work to accommodate the school as it grows.
Eric Liftin, of MESH Architectures, had been enlisted to build out the first two floors, and the students will have a chance to meet with the architects in January to discuss the initial 45-person freshman class’s desires for the space.
Over the course of seven admissions events for prospective students, applicants from all five boroughs as well as New Jersey have shown interest in attending G.V.H.S., said David Liebmann, the head of school.
“We’re very pleased with that,” he said. “We’re really committed to the notion that the school needs to reflect the diversity of the city.”
Tuition rates will be set on a sliding scale based on the individual students’ financial situations, he added, where “every kid pays to the best of their ability.” Class sizes will grow to about 75 students per grade in subsequent years, ultimately topping out at about 300 students total across four grades.
Liebmann and Bell both cited the location’s proximity to mass transit — with two subway stations nearby and PATH stations in the West Village and World Trade Center — as key benefits of the Soho/Hudson Square address. This will allow students to interact with the surrounding Downtown community while still enjoying the relative calm of the low-rise, low-traffic block, Liebmann said.
“There’s the sense of visual communication between the interior of the school and the city, and vice versa,” Liebmann said, speaking of the space’s set of retractable glass doors on the ground floor that peer out onto the street. “We want students to be engaged in the community.”
Additionally, the school’s proximity to the playing fields on Pier 40 off W. Houston St. means students will have access to those facilities for sports programs.
“For us, the school has to be a part of the community—part of the fabric of the Village and part of the fabric of Downtown,” Liebmann added, noting the school looked at dozens of possible locations throughout the Village and Soho, with the Vandam St. address clearly the top choice. “As an institution it will become an educational anchor within the community. … We’ll serve kids from all over the city, but we’re a Downtown school.”
Mews’ garden grows
While crews were busy installing the annual Christmas spruce in Rockefeller Center last Friday, workers lifted some equally heavy lumber at the Soho Mews on W. Broadway over the weekend, where a crane carried in six enormous new trees to form the luxury development’s block-long garden.
The two-building, Gwathmey Siegel-designed condo project, between Grand and Canal Sts., added five 10-to-12-foot Japanese maple trees, each weighing approximately 1.5 tons, as well as a single 8-to-10-foot Kousa dogwood tree weighing about a half-ton.
The trees will eventually form a canopy over the 6,000-square-foot, private garden located in between the two buildings, which will contain 59 residential units when completed early next year.
While the trees’ limbs appeared sparse for their November delivery, crews immediately began watering them after they were placed in plots of soil in the garden area between W. Broadway and Thompson St. The garden will also feature a metal and glass trellis connecting the two buildings to provide protection from the elements, with vines of clematis, climbing hydrangea and Easter-egg vine growing over it. Additionally, alternating textures of granite will be laid in checkerboard pattern, occasionally interweaving with the garden’s grassy areas.
Lofts up, condos down
With the economic downturn yet to fully reveal the depth of its impacts on the city’s residential real estate market, the average price for apartments throughout various Downtown neighborhoods rose over the past year, according to a quarterly report from Halstead Property.
According to third-quarter findings for the Downtown condo/co-op market — which includes the neighborhoods of Battery Park City, Greenwich/East Village, the West Village, Chelsea/Flatiron and Gramercy Park, but excludes Tribeca and Soho — prices for all apartments increased by nearly a third across the board.
Battery Park City saw Downtown’s largest overall increase for the median sales price of all apartments in the area, jumping more than 150 percent in the third quarter, to $1,457,500 from $580,000 last year. The surge was due in large part to closings at the Riverhouse on 1 River Terrace, where prices are significantly higher than most buildings in the area, and led the way for the overall Downtown increase.
In Greenwich Village and the East Village, the median price was up 28 percent, to $1,095,000 from $855,000 a year ago. In the only area to show a drop, the West Village, the median price was down 9.5 percent, to $680,000 from $751,250 a year earlier.
Overall loft prices Downtown decreased by about 13 percent in Chelsea/Flatiron, the Village and Tribeca combined compared to last year — with Tribeca lofts dropping 12 percent, to $1,825,000 from $2,075,000 a year prior. The Noho/Soho loft market, however, was the only area to show gains, jumping by 23 percent in the third quarter, to $2,600,000 from $2,113,750 a year earlier.