Sunday, August 21, 2011


New Ivy Ridge Owner Plans English School



A Chinese businessman and his investment group have purchased the former Academy at Ivy Ridge here with plans to convert the former institution for troubled youths into a school where English will be taught as a second language to Chinese youths.

James Ma also has an interest in more unspecified development in Ogdensburg, according to James E. Reagen, spokesman for State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Ogdensburg.

The school is not expected to open for at least a year.

Mr. Ma deferred all comment on his proposed venture to Mr. Reagen. The senator's office has been instrumental in introducing the businessman and his colleagues to local officials.

"We've been introducing them to people," Mr. Reagen said Thursday. "They're looking for investment opportunities and business opportunities."

The campus, located on Route 37 west of the city, has been closed since March 2009. Mr. Ma, according to Mr. Reagen, scouted vacant properties in California, Oregon, Maine, Ohio and Washington before calling the former school's Utah owner. He came to Ogdensburg about two months ago.

The road to the senator's office was paved by the property's caretaker, which led to a contact with Ogdensburg businessman William D. Hosmer, who is Mr. Reagen's stepson.

The senator's office set up meetings with officials from the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency and City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra.

IDA Economic Developer Patrick Kelly, incidentally, happened to have a fully-developed English as a second language school proposal at hand.

The city's hope to develop its St. Lawrence River waterfront is also of interest to Mr. Ma, according to Mr. Reagen.

Mr. Reagen said Mr. Ma and his group are financing the venture, which Mr. Reagen said will include about $2 million to repair and renovate the former school.

"It's going to take a lot of work," he said, noting that the roof especially is in need of repair.

Mr. Ma's goal, according to Mr. Reagen, is to provide an educational outlet for the youth of China's burgeoning middle class.

The program will be for one year.

"The United States has the best education system in the world," Mr. Reagen said. "If you're a Chinese family, you want the best."

The renewed use of the property has sentimental value for the senator, who was a student there when she was Patricia A. Hilborne. At that time, it was the two-year Mater Dei College.

"She's really excited about getting that property back into productive use," Mr. Reagen said.

And Mr. Ma also liked what he saw of the area beyond the campus. He said he plans to live here.

"People were nice to him," Mr. Reagen said. "He just fell in love with this area."