Construction is well underway at The Nueva School, which will be opening the doors to its new campus at Bay Meadows in September — becoming part of one of the largest transportation-oriented developments in the state.
The private Hillsborough pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school saw Bay Meadows in San Mateo as the perfect opportunity for it to expand into a high school that teaches and models sustainability, said Terry Lee, associate head of school.
“We really feel like we hit the jackpot both in terms of finding a city, San Mateo, that is so visionary in terms of this idea of transit-oriented development in such a progressive part of the Bay Area … so there’s this really wonderful alignment between the school, the master developer [of Bay Meadows] and the city of San Mateo,” Lee said.
As part of Phase II for the old race track off of Highway 101 in San Mateo, Nueva began construction in early 2013 and its campus is compacted into just 2.7 acres, said Darcy Forsell, principal planner with the city’s Planning Division.
The campus has a relatively small footprint with its buildings totaling just 135,000 square feet with a 39,300-square-foot-below-ground-parking garage, Forsell said. Construction of the main building is currently ongoing but will be ready by the time the school year starts, Forsell said.
Currently, the campus is one continuous building made up of two three-story wings connected by a single-story student center. The architectural design achieves LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and contains an athletic center and gym, fine arts space, science laboratories and an organic garden atop the student center.
Eventually, Nueva plans to build an indoor performing arts center and another free-standing classroom building, Forsell said.
Although transit-oriented residential and commercial developments continue to boom throughout the Peninsula, Forsell said the Nueva School is one of the first educational institutions following the trend.
To ensure it promotes transit-oriented standards, Lee and Forsell said the school is prohibiting students from parking on campus except under special circumstances and providing Caltrain passes and shuttle services instead. The campus is a 1,900-foot walk from the Hillsdale Caltrain station, Forsell said.
“Our number one goal with the Bay Meadows project is to have it be a successful transit-oriented development with visitors and employees and residents taking the train. So I think Nueva was really able to support that goal,” Forsell said.
The development of the old race track’s 83 acres between the Hillsdale and Hayward Park Caltrain stations is slated for 1,170 housing units, retail and office space and 18 acres of park. The development was part of a wide-scale vision of the city when it passed the second phase of the Bay Meadows Transit-Oriented Development in 2005. The first phase, at the location of the practice track for Bay Meadows, has single-family homes and apartments, along with the headquarters of Franklin-Templeton and a shopping center featuring a Whole Foods Market. In both phases, with more than 160 acres, the city sought to capitalize on its key location next to public transit and Highway 101 and State Route 92.
The private school was founded 45 years ago and holds classes prekindergarten through eighth-grade at its Hillsborough campus. Last year, it hosted its first high school class by temporarily using facilities at the College of San Mateo, Lee said.
Although construction is still underway, the school plans on having ninth- and 10th-grade class in the coming year and eventually growing into a four-year private high school, Lee said.
Last year’s tuition was $38,000 and Lee said Nueva attracts students from San Jose to Marin County. Lee said he anticipates 160 students at Bay Meadows next year with full occupancy at 400.
The school promotes ride share services by running 16 private buses through its Hillsborough campus and Bay Meadows’ students will have access to private buses as well a host of public transit options, Lee said.
“In San Mateo, we’re really excited about the proximity to Caltrain and other public transit like SamTrans,” Lee said. “It wasn’t like we’re trying to fit a model into an environment that isn’t already optimized for it. With public transit being so accessible to the school, with other amenities being so accessible, people don’t need cars to get around.”
Forsell said Nueva was one of the first to buy land from the Bay Meadows master developer Wilson Meany, enabling it to create a unique transit-oriented environment.
“The level of green building and the fact that it’s a private school that’s really aspiring to be very forward thinking, very unique, very progressive, very environmentally sensitive, that’s just part of their mission,” Forsell said. “They had to design a campus focusing on having the spaces designed to achieve that type of educational program that they embody.”
Lee said the building has myriad attributes that promote sustainability such as using hundreds of overhead natural fans instead of relying on air conditioning. One of the campus courtyards will be landscaped with ecology in mind and use plants native to San Mateo, Lee said.
Nueva is extremely excited to become part of the transit-oriented Bay Meadows community and continuing to represent its student body, Lee said.
“We’re trying to create a school that’s a better reflection of where our kids are today and where they’re trying to go tomorrow and our kids are extremely aware of the environment … of traffic, water, pollution, etcetera,” Lee said. “What we really hope is that we will become a real asset to and a point of pride for not only our school, but for San Mateo the city and the county.”
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