SOMERS, N.Y. - The owners of the former IBM property have begun the process of getting approval from the town for their plan to renovate the behemoth building into a STEM academy boarding school.
The focus on STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—is the selling point for what would be a 9-12 grade school for all genders at a tuition of $49,000 per year for borders, and $37,000 per year for day students.
The program brings together a laundry list of companies and resources to bring to fruition what attorney Mark Weingarten said would be a state-of-the-art facility featuring amenities likely to be the best in the country, maybe even the world.
Here’s a breakdown of everyone involved: Sebastian Capital (which also owns the former PepsiCo building) is the landlord. Evergreen Ridge LLC, headed by Tim DiScipio, who has impressive national and international education credentials, is the developer.
The building would remain the same on the outside, but the inside— a maze of offices, conference rooms—would be gutted for dormitories, classrooms, and technology labs, bringing together Pei Partnership Architects; KG+D Architects; Kimley Horn, planning and design engineering consultants; real estate firm Avison Young; Insite Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture; and Evans Associates Environmental.
The school would get its financing from Tyton Partners and has two law firms—Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, and DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr—representing it, with Thompson and Bender on board for public relations.
The academy, which has yet to be named, hopes to open in 2020 with ninth and 10th grades.
Weingarten credited Sebastian Capital for finding a use for the IBM property that accomplishes two major things: as a for-profit school the town could collect taxes, while the impact to the community would be low.
There is currently parking for 3,200 vehicles on the property. The school, said Erik Kaeyer of KG+D Architects, would only need about 600 spaces, dramatically reducing the number of cars that historically made trips to the location. The blacktop on the unused lots would be turned into athletic fields, tennis courts, a residence for the head of school and other green space.
The IBM offices, five interconnected modern high-tech buildings totaling 1.2 million square feet, sit on 723 acres, much of which is a mystery for anyone who hadn’t worked at IBM.
The special meeting before the Town Board on Thursday, Sept. 20, was an introductory visit to clue in the community. The nitty-gritty, things such as environmental and traffic impact and zoning changes, will likely be presented to the Planning Board in October.
“This is an informal presentation,” Somers Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey said. “It’s not zoned for this school. We have to go through that process and there will be a public hearing where the public will come in and voice their concerns.”
DiScipio described the curriculum as being “academic programming aligned with industry-emerging career fields” with courses that mimic real-world scenarios. Learning would be project-based and hands-on with students working in teams and presenting their work. Teachers would be supplemented with lessons and lectures from industry and field experts.
The academy is expected to reach a maximum enrollment of 1,800 by 2022 with about 85 percent of students living on campus and 15 percent of students commuting. There would be 102 teachers, 23 administrators and 110 support staff including assistants, maintenance, security, resident housing advisors, cafeteria employees, lab aids and shuttle bus drivers.
The target demographic would be American students with maybe 20 percent international teens.
The school would include a new arts and athletic center, athletic fields along with gardens and hiking trails.
“Desire and demand for private school are trending upward,” DiScipio said. “There’s also industry demand for STEM and STEM graduates. STEM jobs are projected to continue growing through 2021.”
He said the academy would be “one of the most important and relevant schools in the country and the world" and there could be opportunities to share spaces like athletic fields or robotic and artificial intelligence labs with the public schools and community groups.
“We’ve got to deliver something really spectacular in academic and residential life and we’re prepared to do that,” DiScipio said.
Weingarten said Somers would benefit from the academy. Parents visiting students would need places to stay, and of course somewhere to eat. Graduating students might come back and consider Somers as a place to live. The real estate market would see a bump from families moving closer to their children, and the nearby commercial district would get more foot traffic from the students.
“A great institution can have a tremendous impact on the community that houses it,” Weingarten said.