EW Howell Construction Group helped transform two private schools in Manhattan as the General Contractor that constructed a new, 30,000 sq.-ft. home for Harlem Academy and led the expansion of Village Community School (VCS).
The Harlem Academy relied on rented space until the construction of this new five-story, 30,000 sq.-ft. permanent home at 655 St. Nicholas Avenue.
“Harlem Academy operated out of three rented, noncontiguous storefronts for nearly 20 years,” said Angela Ebron, Communications Director at Harlem Academy. “While this model allowed flexibility during the school’s start-up, it did not provide a spacious library, a space for athletics, or a way to expand our student body.”
To address these concerns, EW Howell worked closely with architect Perkins Eastman on a fast-track schedule, nearly doubling the school’s enrollment capacity to 240 people to allow for expanded, separate sections for kindergarten and grades 6-8 and to feature a new airy entry common, a café, a new library, and an outdoor play space.
“Harlem Academy was a unique project because of the size of the project site, which allowed for a brand-new building and a ground-level play yard, a rare opportunity we don’t often see for private schools in Manhattan,” said Dominic Paparo, a Vice President at EW Howell who oversaw the project. “Due to space constraints, a usual project in this market would consist of the renovation of an existing school building or an adaptive re-use of an existing property into a school building.”
According to Ebron, the school is thrilled to have this new positive learning environment for students and to expand their student body.
“Our new building is a vibrant space that provides a learning atmosphere designed to inspire, challenge, and support our students,” she said. “It expands Harlem Academy’s impact to more students and strengthens our program. Most critically, it ensures a lasting pathway to opportunity for generations of students to come.”
EW Howell also served as construction manager for the addition and renovation of the Village Community School. The VCS expansion project’s goal, which satisfied a key pillar of the school’s 2014 Strategic Plan, was to align its physical campus with the needs of an evolving curriculum.
“One of our foremost concerns was that the new wing not only have dedicated classrooms for subjects like World Language, Math, and STEAM, but that those spaces be specially designed to support the goals of those programs – for example, equipping the language classroom with a separate space for students to record themselves speaking in their target language,” said Jen Mitchell, Head of School for the Village Community School. “We were also keenly aware that our continued leadership in the field of K-8 education would be supported by the addition of a second gym, larger library, and new flexible spaces that could adapt as the school’s programming evolves in the future.”
Designed by Marvel Architects, the 30,000 sq.-ft., five-level expansion required deep site excavation to allow for a new gymnasium in the cellar. The expansion also features a new library, new classrooms, a rooftop play yard, and classrooms for specialized skills such as woodshop. A unique feature of the Village Community School project is a curtain wall connection between the existing school building and the new addition, which creates a showcase entrance.
“It was a unique situation that we could utilize Village Community School’s existing ground-level play yard, which sat adjacent to the existing school building, as the site for the new expansion,” said Paparo.
Mitchell said that students are enthusiastic about the school’s new enhancements, and look forward to engaging with fellow students in subject-specific classrooms and light-filled common areas.
“Staff, too, are now better positioned to promote student learning,” she added. “Rather than moving in and out of mixed-used classrooms to teach their subject, teachers have been able to outfit their classroom to reflect and support the goals of their curriculum, assign more long-term projects requiring classroom storage, and design interdisciplinary experiences that incorporate a wider range of tools and resources.”
In addition to these two projects, EW Howell has completed expansion and renovation work for several other prominent private schools in New York City, including The Dalton School, Brearley School, The Spence School, and The Hewitt School.