Schools Firm Makes Noise in Empty Market: Seals Big Downtown Lease, Pursues Hell’s Kitchen Space

For all the talk of this being a tenants’ market, the languishing health of those very same tenants has in reality rendered it more of an empty market. Which helps explain why, of all would-be tenants, MetSchools, a for-profit educational outfit that operates pricey private institutions throughout New York City, has become one of the marketplace’s most active tenants.

MetSchools, which runs the new Aaron Academy, is finishing up negotiations to lease the 50,000-square-foot property at 426 West 52nd Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues, from landlord Tessler Developments, according to P. D. Cagliastro, spokeswoman for the school. (The taking rent wasn’t available; asking rents in the area average between $35.78 a square foot all the way toward $80, according to Colliers ABR.)

And, in perhaps the largest leasing deal of the year, MetSchools, represented by Newmark Knight Frank, recently signed a lease for 200,000 square feet at the Sapir Organization’s 100 Church Street, which next school year will house the Claremont Preparatory High School.

Now MetSchools is looking to house Aaron Academy, its special-needs middle and high school, in the squat red-brick Hell’s Kitchen building that was once part of St. Vincent’s Hospital, until the institution sold it at the end of ’07. The Hell’s Kitchen academy is intended to ultimately serve 450 students, many of whom are likely to come from the academy’s elementary school counterpart, the Aaron School, according to Barbara McKeon, the academy’s director.

Ms. McKeon said that if MetSchools takes the site, it will transform the property into a sort of educational marvel, with an indoor pool, a rooftop greenhouse, a culinary lab in which to cook the roof-top produce, a full-size gym, a dance and yoga studio, a black-box theater, a biology lab and SMARTboards in every classroom.

drubinstein@observer.com

Schools Firm Makes Noise in Empty Market: Seals Big Downtown Lease, Pursues Hell’s Kitchen Space