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Ex-Xilinx Building Future Home of Cottonwood Prep

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School, a tuition-free charter school with about 540 students in the North Valley, is moving to the Journal Center this summer.

The school’s associated volunteer nonprofit, the Cottonwood Classical Foundation, recently purchased the 47,161-square-foot former Xilinx building at 7801 Jefferson NE for $5,925,000. After an additional $2.4 million in renovations, the building is expected to be ready for occupancy on June 1.

The building, originally built in 1985 by Hewlett-Packard Co., was marketed at an asking price of $6,375,000 by Dave Hill and Brett Hills of NAI Maestas & Ward.

“The building appraised for about $400,000 more than we paid for it. We feel like we made a good deal,” said Richie Flowers, president of the Cottonwood Classical Foundation. “It was many months of blood, sweat and tears.”

When Xilinx purchased the property in 1999, it had a list price of $3.5 million. A provider of programmable or “fuzzy” logic technology, the company closed its Albuquerque operation in mid-2011.

Despite an office real estate market running a vacancy rate of nearly 19 percent, school officials found only two potential buildings that met its criteria of a single-tenant building with more than 40,000 square feet, a central location and green space.

“The whole idea of trees and grass, being in the valley, is in the DNA of the school,” Flowers said.

The 6.2-acre property has about 2.5 acres of grass and trees that will be used for outdoor student activities. The building also has a basketball gym, kitchen area and offices that will be reused, he said. Most of the renovation will be for classrooms. Klinger Constructor is the project contractor, while Mullen Heller is the architect.

The renovated building will give Cottonwood Classical the capacity for 700-750 students in grades 6-12, Flowers said.

When it came time to make an offer on the property, Cottonwood Classical needed $50,000 in earnest money. An email was sent to parents asking for donations and, within two weeks, the foundation had its earnest money, Flowers said.

The long-term financing was provided by what is basically a tax-free municipal bond issued through Minnesota-based Dougherty & Co., which describes itself as a “pioneer” in providing financing for charter schools.

“They were used to the nuances,” Flowers said. “Our problems were not new to them.”

Long-term financing can be a challenge for many charter schools for reasons that range from the need to renew their charters every five years to the presumption that enrollment thresholds will always be achieved, said Sam Obenshain, the school’s executive director.

“Our educational record at Cottonwood went a long way in enabling us to finance this deal,” he said. “We have a waiting list every year. We’ve gotten an ‘A’ grade the two times we’ve been graded by the state.”

Cottonwood Classical, which is accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate diploma, is currently in separate buildings at 1776 Montano NW and 1730 Montano NW.

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