Yavneh won’t buy Frisch building

Yavneh won’t buy Frisch building

PARAMUS – After years of prospective moves and almost done deals, it seems as if Yavneh Academy has finally found a home — back where it started, in its current facility on Farview Avenue.

In October of ‘004, the school announced that it would buy The Frisch School’s building at ’43 Frisch Ave. and would move part of its student body into the building once Frisch moved its students to the Hewlett Packard building on Century Road. Initially, Frisch planned on moving from Frisch Avenue in January ‘007. The plan seemed a natural, as Yavneh is the largest feeder school into Frisch, but construction delays recently forced the high school to push back that move until September of ‘007. After learning of Frisch’s delayed move, the Yavneh school board voted last week to allow the option to buy to expire, which let it out of the deal at no penalty, according to Yavneh’s president, Sam Zagha.

Instead of buying the Frisch building, Yavneh will stay put on Farview Avenue.

The move is another twist in the long road, apparently, home for Yavneh.

In ‘004, Yavneh spent months trying to get zoning variances to build a $30 million to $40 million, 148,000-square-foot compound on the site of Greenland Nursery on Forest Avenue. But in September of ‘004, after spending some $400,000 on the zoning process, it abruptly withdrew its applications and decided not to renew a series of contract extensions it had signed with the nursery’s owner.

Less than a month later, Yavneh beat out Yeshivat Noam in a bidding war to buy the Frisch building for about $1′.9 million.

Yavneh planned on moving its middle school grades to the old Frisch building, while keeping its lower grades at its building on Farview Avenue.

For now, the school will be content to make improvements on the school’s existing facility, starting with upgrading its electrical system, installing new flooring and windows, and adding air conditioning to all classrooms, Zagha said, adding that those upgrades would be made this summer.

Further improvements may be made at a later date.

Several years ago Yavneh bought the piece of property next to its campus, with the thought of one day building on it, but nothing is planned yet, said Elie Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the school’s board of directors.

Though Yavneh’s project has been scaled down from nearly $40 million to the $’50,000 Zagha says it will take to make improvements he termed "phase 1," he also said that its decision did not boil down to an inability to raise the money necessary for the project.

"There were no fund-raising issues at all. We were quite pleased with the initial response from the parent body," he said. "However, given the need to extend the contract, the Yavneh board chose to take a fresh look at the entire plan. Taking all factors into consideration, the board chose not to extend the contract. Among the most weighty factors were the board’s desire to limit tuition increases."

He also said that the school’s board and its parent body wanted to keep all of Yavneh’s students on one campus.

When Yavneh backed out of its Greenland Nursery deal, there was speculation that it did so because it feared that with the then recent openings of three new day schools in the area — Noam, Ben Porat Yosef, and the Montessori School — it might not be able to fill the proposed building’s 1,000-student capacity.

But Zagha said that Yavneh does not fear that its student body is shrinking, though perhaps it does not feel the necessity to expand right now.

"The fact that we have three newer schools in the area will only help to continue fueling that growth, and we see this trend towards growth continuing well past ‘010. It is true that we no longer feel the need to grow beyond what our educational administration is comfortable with in order to satisfy the community, but we expect growth to continue for Yavneh and the other fine day schools in the area for many years to come," he said.

According to the director of educational services for the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, Dr. Wallace Greene, Yavneh experienced a dip in enrollment in early childhood classes a couple of years ago, but now "the numbers are stable. All our schools are stable," he said. "Some are growing. All of them are experiencing small spurts."

Yavneh’s enrollment was around 750, according to then principal Peretz Hochbaum. It is now 7’3, according to Greene. He expects that the school will see about a 3 percent to 5 percent increase next year, on a par with all of the other schools in the area.

Though there is a general concern that enrollment in day schools might dip across the board in ‘010, once the baby boomers stop having children, Greene said that the area’s schools should remain healthy, especially its Orthodox schools, such as Yavneh, because of the area’s growing Jewish community.

For its part, Frisch believes that it may benefit from the nixed deal and that it may be able to get a better price for its now available building.

"We believe that we will be able to successfully remarket the school, whether it be to another school or another institution," said Frisch’s executive director Elaine Weitzman. Weitzman said that the situation will not affect the new building’s financing, nor will it affect Frisch’s relationship with Yavneh. "We respect their decision to do what is best for them, and we will continue to work closely with them," she said.

Zagha said that the decision not to move was well received by Yavneh’s parent body, and he all but closed the door on another possible move in the near future.

"We will explore and evaluate all possibilities in our continuing mission to provide the highest quality educational and extracurricular experience in the most cost effective manner possible," he said. "To that end, we will always be looking for the best way and best environment in which to do that, whether it be an upgraded Farview facility or on another appropriate site. I would never say never but currently, we have no plans to purchase another property."

UJA finds a new

The UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey is picking up and moving west. At least a few miles.

The local federation announced Monday that it had contracted to buy a three-story building at 50 Eisenhower Drive in Paramus and that it will leave its current offices at 111 Kinderkamack Road in River Edge sometime after April ‘007.

"We’re looking at this new facility as the next level of performance and geographic cohesiveness for our community," said UJA-NNJ executive vice president Howard Charish. "We have outgrown our current facility, and we need a place that is more hospitable for volunteers and staff."

Federation officials said that the move was made necessary after the UJA Federation of Bergen County & North Hudson and the Jewish Federation of North Jersey merged in the summer of ‘004 to form the UJA-NNJ.

After the merger, the staff of the former North Jersey Federation moved into the Kinderkamack Road building, the offices of the former Bergen federation, causing a crunch in what the federation says was already cramped quarters.

The current three-story facility has only two stories and 15,000 square feet of usable office space and 60 parking spots, but the Paramus building has three stories and 3′,900 feet of usable space, along with 141 parking spots.

The federation now spends $8,000 a year for off-site storage space and another $9,600 a year to rent additional parking, and it has no up-to-code restrooms for the handicapped.

The move west will also provide a more central location for the UJA’s entire catchment area, as it will now be closer to Wayne and Franklin Lakes, areas that the former North Jersey Federation covered.

UJA-NNJ president Dan Silna said that the federation is also excited to be a part of what it sees as a growing corridor of Jewish institutions in western Paramus, as The Frisch School and Yeshivat Noam will soon move into buildings close to the federation’s new digs.

But, he said, the move was also necessary because of security concerns about the Kinderkamack Road building. That building is on stilts, which makes it vulnerable to explosive-packed cars.

"After 9/11, this became a concern," he said. "Anyone can park under that building and walk away. Since the second intifada started, yeshivas and synagogues and Jewish institutions have been tightening security. We should probably have a guard and a gate around the current parking lot."

The federation agreed to buy the building for $5 million, and will likely spend up to another $750,000 to $1 million on renovations, according to the UJA-NNJ’s Charish. The federation, said Silna, will not use money from its annual campaign to finance the project; instead it has started a separate campaign that has already raised $1.8 million. It also expects to raise somewhere around $1 million from the sale of its current facility, which is not yet on the market.

The federation did not look to spend lavishly on its new building, said Silna, and it was not looking for a showplace, merely something that would provide more working space and a more central community home. He believes that it found what it was looking for on Eisenhower Drive.

"It’s a good building for us," he said. "It’s not the Taj Mahal, but it will satisfy our immediate needs."

The sale is scheduled to close in April of ‘007, and then the federation will begin to make necessary repairs on the ‘0-year-old Paramus building. Now owned by Burt Ross Realty, the building, according to a Condition Assessment Report, is in good condition and has been well maintained.

The building has a cellular tower on its roof that generates approximately $’0,000 in income, but the federation also hopes that it can entice some tenants of its own to generate a bit more.

March of the Living and Israel Bonds now rent office space from the UJA-NNJ, and they will be given the opportunity to do so in the new building, Charish said. He added that the federation would like to make space in the top floor of the new building open to other local Jewish institutions.

"Our priority is to be a Jewish community headquarters," said Charish.



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