We Did it! GO Closes $5m Loan from BlueHub

Last month,  the GO Foundation closed a loan for $5,000,000 from BlueHub, a non-profit community development agency that focuses on building healthy communities. The loan will be used to remodel the former Catholic school at 240 Bleecker Street in the West Village.

Work began on the project a year ago when the lease was signed and a team from Civic Builders was engaged to guide the remodeling needed to modify the space to suit the needs of Great Oaks NYC. The work has picked up in the last several months (see photo from the site from last week) now that building permits have been issued and an experienced general contractor, McGowan Builders, has been retained.

As the GO Foundation completes its transition from Charter Management Organization to Tutoring Provider it will assume a singular relationship with Great Oaks NYC as GO Fellows take up residence to live in the building’s top two floors (the church’s former convent) and the offices of the GO Foundation become happily ensconced on the building’s 3rd floor (behind the student cafeteria). Most importantly, the close relationship between the two organizations will provide a singular opportunity to observe in real-time what is working (and what isn’t) when it comes to high-dosage tutoring.

The African proverb holds that it takes a village to raise a child; here are the members of our village that exhibited super-human commitments to reach this point:

BlueHub – Let’s start with the incredible faith shown by long-time BlueHub exec Mike Niles who has known us for a decade now; Kathryn McHugh, who gave up chunks of her vacation to close this deal, not to mention hundreds of hours leading up to that; Galina Kim who was on it every step of the way; and Bob Keough their counsel at Krokidas and Bluestein who was tireless in closing this transaction.

GO Foundation staff – former COO Lauren Perkins who helped develop the deal; it is no exaggeration to say this: the person without whom this deal would not have happened, is current COO Jean Lombardi who jumped in to do whatever was necessary to get this over the finish line; as well as VP Vanessa Ceas & CFO Ben Chan who developed countless budget pro formas showing that this deal made sense.

Maureen Sherry – another indispensable person to this transaction, who helped us find the site in the first place and has shown enormous generosity to Great Oaks and the kids the school serves. (more on that at a future date!)

Great Oaks NYC staff – Timberly Wilson, who never lost faith and has been an incredible partner in this work; Ops Director, Tiffany Cunningham, who joined the team at just the right time, given the depth of her skills and tenacity; & Fellow Director, Kate Boyle, who has insured that the perspective of the Fellows was well represented throughout.

Great Oaks NYC board – I am so grateful to the wise counsel of board chair, Susan Akselrad; and board members and real estate executives Kai-yan Lee, and Anand Bhatia who kissed a lot of frogs before we landed this deal.

Willkie, Farr & Gallagher – who on a PRO BONO (for those who don’t know Latin, that means free) basis advised GO on this deal, led by their amazing and talented partner, David Drewes, and his colleague Connor Burns, who has earned the MVP award (MVP! MVP! MVP!) on the closing of the project.

Civic Builders – their leader David Umansky, who provided thoughtful guidance when the project looked dead and his dynamic development team, composed of the consummate diplomat Lenny Dymond & architect Eli Robertson.

McGowan Builders – the smiling Irish eyes that are led by the firm’s namesake Marty McGowan; estimators Darragh Peters & Junior Pichinin who helped us whittle down to a budget that was finance-able; and site managers David Pond and Joe Jackson who are going to bring this baby home on-time and on-budget.

Gran Kriegel Architects – God bless architect David Kriegel, who has been working with Great Oaks NYC for over 10 years on various school plans and fought hard for inventive design ideas on the project and his colleague Liam Hartigan who cranked out many, many iterations of plans for the site.

Our Lady of Pompeii – parish leader, Mike Amarosa, (who attended grammar school in this building) church secretary, Lucille Tesriero and parish priest Fr. Angelo Plodari, who have warmly welcomed us into their community.

Archdiocese of New York – Ed Newman, who always took my calls, no matter what problem cropped up on the project.

Last, but not least, JLL – our real estate brokers, Matt Astrachan and Joe Messinawho looked high and low in helping us find all of those frogs to kiss before we found our prince of a long-term home on Bleecker Street.

Now, its only 42 days until we need to finish the work for the start of the new school year….

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