Looking to the Future: GDS Moves Ahead with Retail Development

Noah Gottdenker

GDS’s campus expansion plans have come with new ideas, opportunities and possibilities. While it has already been decided that the space currently occupied by Safeway will be the site of the new Lower and Middle School campus and the space currently occupied by the former Martens Volvo-Volkswagen dealership will become some form of retail, it has yet to be decided exactly what will fill the retail space.

GDS intends to utilize the Martens space for an expansive retail-residential complex with six to seven floors of residential apartments and one or two floors of retail. Exactly what retail the school would like to place inside has yet to be determined, but Rahel Rosner, Director of Finance and Operations, provided some ideas of what is in store for the development. “The retail, we hope, will include a grocery store. The plan includes somewhere between 15,000 and 16,000 square feet of retail space and, in addition to that, there will be storefronts facing 42nd Street,” she said. “There will be two distinct areas with outdoor seating for the retail, anticipating that most of the stores will be a combination of fast-casual other dining options,” Rosner added.

However, the question remains: what exactly is GDS trying to achieve in developing a retail-residential complex across from the new campus? In short, there are two longstanding goals that GDS hopes to achieve in this new development, the first being to unify the two campuses. The second goal, however, is less well-known among the student body: to provide aid to GDS in a way that it has never had access to before. “Our goal is to provide the school with a non-tuition related source of revenue,” Rosner said. Even though the school seeks to generate a constant stream of income, Rosner made clear that the idea of creating a self-sustaining source of revenue will have its limits: “Realize that we’re not looking to rent out those apartments,” she clarified, stating instead, “We would lease them to a developer.”

Despite these goals, many question the reasoning behind the school’s decision not to use the newly acquired area to expand the school facilities, in particular the athletic facilities, instead of using it to develop retail. “The school building that we’re anticipating is significantly larger than what we currently have at the Lower-Middle School campus…We are very comfortable with the building space that we would have at the current Safeway site,” said Rosner.

Even in the midst of all the potential positives, conflict with GDS’s current neighbors here in Tenleytown seems inevitable. To this, Rosner posited the opposite: “We’ve worked very closely with the neighbors. When we submitted our initial development plan in November, we had had over 70 meetings within the community. Of those, about 60 of them were with the school’s immediate neighbors,” she said. The meetings have certainly benefitted GDS’s understanding of the neighborhood’s feelings: “We have had significant input and significant conversations with our neighbors to really understand their perspectives and their concerns,” Rosner added.

Looking towards the future, it is impossible to anticipate exactly how the new retail-residential complex will develop or exactly how it will evolve to best serve the school. However, what is certain is that the campus expansion will benefit the future students of GDS and improve the quality of their learning.

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