In December 2019, we were approached by the executive director of the Antonia Alonso Charter School, they were wanting assistance in finding a larger building for their growing school and due to their lease expiring in July 2020. Their current space was 60,000 square feet that housed grades 1st through 5th, and the school was expecting their overall student count to increase by 400 students.
Acting as their advisor, we searched for a year to find a potential building that would suit their needs. Fortunately, we came across a former Bank of America Call Center that totaled 115,000 square feet, nearly doubling the size of the schools current building. It was originally built in the 1980’s and was vacant for roughly 6 years before we found it. We thought the fit was ideal for the school and reached out to the owner, Capano Real Estate, and they leased it to us.
The Antonia Alonso Charter School is a Latino bilingual school where students are encouraged to investigate who they are and what role they play in a diverse society. They work to provide students with excellent academics along with a sense of community and global awareness. Since their school had grades 1st through 5th, when an older sibling would move onto another school, many families would then pull their younger child out so they could keep their children at the same school. Many families did this so there would be less hassle having to go to two different schools to pick-up or drop-off their kids.
The location of the Comcast Call building is in a suburban area in Newark, Delaware, which makes it much more accessible to the student community. It is also in close proximity to Interstate 95, for those who would have to travel farther to get there.
When crafting the interior renovation plan, we wanted to ensure that we weren’t just finding them a new school building but providing them with a space that supports their mission and educational needs. In their new building, they can now house grades from pre-k through 7th grade. Expanding into these grades allows for families to keep their siblings together longer. We took the large open areas that were once filled with cubicles and replaced them with classrooms.
We were able to also provide space for a community center. This space allows for parents, students, and other members of the community to utilize resources that they may not have access to at home. Rather than the average public school, this is now a community school, serving more than just the students, but supporting their families as well.
As Capano Real Estate are the true owners of the building, our part was to be the Advisor for the Antonia Alonso Charter School since they were leasing the building. We also acted as the Owner’s Representative to oversee the construction and tenant fit out processes.
When in the process of bringing this new school to life, we faced major supply chain issues and could not get HVAC units from abroad. We had to keep in mind that the Delaware Department of Education mandates that schools must be ready for students to enter by the set start date, or the school will be closed. Not only did we have to get creative to find the necessary materials, but we were also racing the clock to ensure that construction would be done on time.
We recommended the architect to design the fit out for the new school. In total, the project cost $10 million. Majority of the financials were covered through ESSER funds, an emergency relief fund for schools. Even with unforeseen challenges, we were able to coordinate all aspects of this project to be completed on time and provided the school with a new space where they can fulfill their mission.
The Antonia Alonso Bilingual Charter School opened for the first day of classes in late August 2022.