New private high school find home in Soho on Vandam St.


By Patrick Hedlund

The Greenwich Village High School’s hunt for a Downtown home has led the fledgling private school to Soho, where it will open next year in a loft building on Vandam St. The announcement came after the school officially inked a deal to take over two-and-a-half floors encompassing 12,000 square feet at 30 Vandam St., between Sixth Ave. and Varick St.

The location is well positioned between the Village and Lower Manhattan to draw students from Downtown and beyond. According to representatives for the high school, which will rent the current space for ten years, G.V.H.S. will have options on two additional floors in the six-story building as enrollment expands and space becomes available.

“We considered many locations, and by far this is the most appealing,” said G.V.H.S. co-founder Aimee Bell. She added that the property’s landlord, Mark Epstein, a member of The Cooper Union’s board of trustees, maintains a commitment to education and will work to accommodate the school as it grows.

Eric Liftin, of MESH Architectures, had been enlisted to build out the first two floors, and the students will have a chance to meet with the architects in January to discuss the initial 45-member freshman class’s desires for the space.

Over the course of seven admissions events for prospective students, applicants from all five boroughs as well as New Jersey have shown interest in attending G.V.H.S., said Head of School David Liebmann.

“We’re very pleased with that,” he said. “We’re really committed to the notion that the school needs to reflect the diversity of the city.”

Tuition rates will be set on a sliding scale based on the individual students’ financial situations, he added, where “every kid pays to the best of their ability.” Class sizes will grow to about 75 students per grade in subsequent years, ultimately topping out at about 300 students total across four grades.

Liebmann and Bell both cited the location’s proximity to mass transit — with two subway stations nearby and PATH stations in the West Village and World Trade Center — as key benefits of the Soho/South Village address. This good transportation will allow students to interact with the surrounding Downtown community while still enjoying the relative calm of the low-rise, low-traffic block. That interactive spirit also includes a set of retractable glass doors on the ground floor that peer out onto the street.

“There’s the sense of visual communication between the interior of the school and the city, and vice versa,” Liebmann said. “We want students to be engaged in the community.”

Additionally, the school’s proximity to the playing fields on Pier 40 at W. Houston St. means students will have access to those facilities for sports programs.

“For us, the school has to be a part of the community — part of the fabric of the Village and part of the fabric of Downtown,” Liebmann added, noting the school looked at dozens of possible locations throughout the Village and Soho, with the Vandam St. address clearly the top choice. “As an institution it will become an educational anchor within the community. … We’ll serve kids form all over the city, but we’re a Downtown school.”