Jersey City Welcomes New Charter High School

By SCN Staff

JERSEY CITY, N.J.—Friends of BelovED Community Charter School 2, Inc. (Friends 2) and Urbahn Architects have completed the new high school facility for the BelovED Community Charter School. Located at 535 Grand Street in Jersey City, the high school will serve 480 students once fully occupied.

According to Urbahn Architects Principal Marty Stein, AIA, “The 53,000-square foot, four-story building will house students in grades 9 to 12. The $12.5 million property features a parking garage at ground level and 20 full-sized classrooms and laboratories, 4 half-classrooms, a gymnasium, a multi-purpose room, and a large cafetorium located on higher floors, accessed by an elevator and two stairwells.”

BelovED Community Charter School, named in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of “Beloved Community,” operates K-8 school facilities across the street from the new high school. The school currently serves 1,320 students in grades K-10, and by the beginning of the school year 2022-23 the enrollment will increase to 1,560 students in grades K-12.

In addition to Urbahn Architects, the project team included structural engineer Consulting Engineers Collaborative (CEC); mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineer Partner Engineering and Science; civil engineer Derosier Engineering; and food service design consultant Schiavone Designs.

The small size of the site meant that Urbahn had to be particularly creative in developing and maximizing a functional program. The parcel is within a FEMA-designated flood zone, which added another challenge for the design team.

The parking garage and a loading dock with a 20-foot-wide overhead coiling gate are located at ground level. The first-floor assembly area – which features concrete pavers, an ornamental steel fence, benches, and planters – and the adjoining entrance lobby and security desk, storage and utility areas, and walk-in freezer are all elevated above the FEMA flood zone level.

The second floor of the structure, cantilevered above the parking lot, houses a cafetorium and an 850-square foot kitchen, an office suite, a nurse’s office, classrooms, and two sets of double stairs in addition to the elevator. The kitchen is equipped with three reach-in refrigerators, dry food storage, a commercial stove, two convection ovens, and fiber reinforced panels (FRP) walls. The kitchen floor is quarry tile. A walk-in freezer is located on the ground floor.

The third-floor features classrooms and laboratories, a multi-purpose room, a gymnasium, an art classroom, locker rooms, and a main distribution frame (MDF) room. The fourth floor houses a music room with a stepped stage for rehearsals and performances, classrooms, a special education classroom, and a teacher’s lounge room/break room. The laboratory features a fume hood by Venturi; epoxy resin countertops with sinks and gas, water, and power connections; and cabinetry.

The classrooms feature vinyl composite tile (VCT) flooring with ornamental color patterns, while the gymnasium is equipped with an athletic flooring system. Classrooms offer an abundance of natural light, white boards, audiovisual educational equipment, and flexible furniture systems that allow for easy reconfigurations of the class settings.

The building’s façade features Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS), a non-load bearing, exterior wall cladding on steel studs, with Batt insulation. Energy efficiency is also improved by thermally- proficient low emissivity (or low-e) windows with high visible transmittance (VT) properties that allow increased amounts of natural light into the school’s interiors.