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The revitalization of cities is inextricably linked to the reform of urban schools. This causal relationship has frustrated the private development community for decades. The principal, Andrea Pizziconi, created the Christie Company to address the growing crisis of educational reform in the United States and abroad through an affordable means of constructing and maintaining high-quality schools which are designed and located to be fully integrated with the most vibrant sectors of society. As an urban developer whose past projects have received national and international recognition for their impact on revitalizing challenging urban environments, she started to look at “win-win” strategies for the private sector to address the needs of the public education sector to create affordable quality school facilities.

Understanding that public private partnerships in education require sensitivity and trust, Pizziconi turned from private developer to academic researcher to identify answers to the most pressing question facing the education reform movement: where do young adults best learn and grow? With research funded by the Gates Foundation conducted at Cambridge University in the UK, she recognized that schools are microcosms of society and should function accordingly to optimally enhance a child’s development as well as the performance of their teachers. Her research demonstrated that the best learning environment is one where schools are completely integrated into their communities through the accessibility of their designs, which also leads to optimal building conditions such as temperature and natural light access. These schools are also centrally located, which, combined with enhanced designs and building conditions, also substantially improves teacher performance and retention. Most importantly, she concluded that constructing and maintaining optimal facilities and creating access to sites in desirable locations was best executed by partnering with the private sector.

After being approached by multiple schools, Pizziconi realized that without the benefit of her research, traditional development companies have been unwilling to bear the risks associated with privately financing start-up schools. To fill this niche and to ensure the best practice execution of the most important principles of quality school design and urban revitalization, she committed the focus of her company to building an educational facility into each project undertaken. Her openness to schools as tenants quickly made her a desirable strategic development partner for schools struggling to meet their aggressive expansion needs in challenging urban areas. Today, Pizziconi travels the world lecturing on her research findings and contributing to the public dialogue on how best to create sustainable and successful schools and cities that contribute to the development of all stakeholders.

The Christie Company
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