Cultivating Hearts and Minds Pre-K Center Design and Conversion

As part of an effort to expand the availability of early childhood education for 3-year-old (3-K) children, New York City looked to convert retail space on the first floor of a mixed-use building in the Bronx into a bright, cheerful 3-K learning center. The existing building consists of eight stories, seven of which are residential units. The first floor contained dedicated lobby space for residents as well as a retail store with its own entrance. With the help of Gannett Fleming, the 11,735-square-foot retail space was transformed into the Cultivating Hearts and Minds Pre-K Center. The conversion accommodates five classrooms as well as an indoor exercise room, kitchen, and school support and administrative spaces.

The fast-track design effort was completed in less than five months, in accordance with client needs. Our team of architects and engineers first provided a predesign and feasibility study report to the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA) to determine the project scope. We then developed the schematic design and finalized the floor layout within a month and a half. Subsequently, we prepared construction documents and completed bid set documents within two months.

What We Did

After carefully considering the future of childhood learning and instruction, the team designed five multidirectional classrooms, stepping away from the traditional classroom with a single orientation. Each classroom wall can serve as a different space of instruction. As a result, teachers can utilize breakout groups and implement social distancing easily. Each classroom seats 15 students, enabling the center to accommodate a total of 75 children.

Because the garage below the center is unheated, the team designed a radiant floor heating system to keep students and faculty comfortable throughout the facility. The team selected an animal theme for the interior design, inspired by the nearby Bronx Zoo. A turtle shell served as a motif for a lobby accent wall and corridor floor tile pattern. Privacy-protecting window films showing animals and flowers improve security for students and create a warm and inviting atmosphere inside and out.

Key Features

  • Bright, cheerful design and décor create a welcoming learning environment for 3-K students.
  • Flexible classroom spaces accommodate a variety of teaching setups and seating configurations.
  • Radiant floor heating keeps occupants comfortable throughout the facility.


  • Comfortable and secure learning environment for 75 children.
  • Fast-track design enabled construction within five months.
  • Sufficient space for teaching flexibility and social distancing.


New York City School Construction Authority


Bronx, N.Y.


Architecture and Design

More Project Details
What are you looking for?
Privacy Preferences

When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

Our website uses cookies, mainly from third-party services. Define your Privacy Preferences and/or agree to our use of cookies.