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Village Voice Leaving Cooper Sq. as Grace Church School Moves in

By Serena Solomon | August 24, 2012 7:13am

EAST VILLAGE — The longtime headquarters of The Village Voice in Cooper Square will soon make way for an expanding private school — ending the alternative weekly newspaper's more than two-decade-long stay.

Grace Church School, founded in 1894 as a boarding school made up of just 16 boys, will be opening the doors of its new campus at 46 Cooper Square on Sept. 4 to its first ever class of ninth-graders, school officials said.

As the independent school continues to renovate the new space to accommodate future high school grades, the expansion is expected to consume The Village Voice's office next year after the paper's 12-year run in the space.

"Yes, thankfully we'll be leaving this dump in the spring," Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega wrote via email, adding that the newspapers iconic lettering on the building's facade would be going with them. "We're looking at a few different offices, not sure that we've settled on a new place yet."

The alternative newspaper is yet to lock in another location, but has looked at some possible office spaces, Ortega wrote.

The current $12 million phase of renovations will allow for 60 co-ed students from 30 different schools to move into the landmarked building, which was once a bird-feed factory for Hartz Mountain pet foods. Grace Church's current elementary school is located nearby, on Fourth Avenue at East 11th Street.

"We haven't been able to send [students] to a school that is doing what we have been doing," said the school’s fean of faculty, Arvind Grover. "We are going to build that school."

Until 2018, the school will continue with more multimillion-dollar renovations to accommodate grades 10, 11 and 12, adding a gym, theater and other learning spaces.

The school has taken out a 95-year lease from the building's owner, Leonard Stern, who along with being The Village Voice’s landlord also owned the paper from 1985 to 2000.

This first phase of renovations will add 60,000 square feet of learning space, with an eventual total of 100,000 square feet planned for the school.

"You won't feel cooped up, and they [students] will know where they are," said the renovation's architect, Jacob Alspector, who incorporated numerous large skylights into the design. A series of glass paneling on the walls will enable students to see and feel the activity of Fourth Avenue.

Paying homage to the buildings history was also important to Alspector and Grace Church School.

"The factory used to roll barrels of bird seed," said Alspector, explaining why there were slight inclines on the floor incorporated into the design.

Students will also be creating their own history in the first week of school. The school's head, George Davison, said student’s will be gathering objects and inserting them into a time capsule located in the buildings walls.

"It won’t be open until they return in 2062," said Davison, speaking about the 50-year reunion for the school's first ninth-grade class.

Davison added the new building’s design will make independent group work easier for students, with the glass paneling meaning fewer barriers between teachers and students.

"We are going to meet the needs of kids where they are at," he said.