Gem Prep Pocatello

Gem Prep Pocatello

From Sears to Success

Thanks to some creative thinking, Building Hope helped Gem Prep Pocatello make its home in an unexpected place – a former Sears department store.

Building Hope’s Role:

Financing | Real Estate Development 

Location: Chubbuck, ID
Grades Served: K-8
Number of Students: 580
Square feet of space created: 74,000
Year completed: 2019

Where a Department Store Closed, A School Thrives

Building Hope understands that the right space for a charter school can be anywhere. Just ask Gem Prep in Pocatello, Idaho.

Originally, the school’s physical facility was irrelevant: It was entirely online. Then the Albertson Family Foundation announced an initiative to create 20,000 new seats in Idaho’s best-performing schools. “We had early conversations about expansion,” CEO Jason Bransford recalls. “But how do you create more seats at a virtual school?” Bransford had already been envisioning a brick-and-mortar facility and decided that the time was right. 

The newly named Gem Innovation Schools developed a plan for branches in Pocatello, Nampa, and Meridian, Idaho. One charter-school partner, Bluum, helped them with start-up. For permanent facilities, Bluum connected Gem with Building Hope.

First, Building Hope went to work in Nampa, acquiring a former for-profit college’s building. Meridian required a new turnkey facility. It was for Pocatello, however, that they found the most resourceful solution.

“It’s part of the mall!” says Bransford, still impressed. “It’s the old Sears building at Pine Ridge Mall.” 

Albertson provided 30% of the funding. Building Hope went to the bond market to secure the rest at favorable rates, and even eliminated some standard, but burdensome, contractual language. Then renovations got started.

On the first day of school in August 2019, the former Sears building welcomed the teachers, staff, and 300 students of Gem Prep Pocatello. Already, enrollment doubled from the previous year, and GPP had plenty of space to grow into its target enrollment of 580 and add of seventh and eighth grades.

Bransford credits Building Hope for ingenuity, for expertise, and for streamlining the process. “They really are a one-stop shop,” he says. “They will help you with land acquisition, the building, the financing, and they have the expertise to do it all.”

A one-stop shop

They really are a one-stop shop. They will help you with land acquisition, the building, the financing, and they have the expertise to do it all.

Jason Bransford
CEO, Gem Prep Pocatello


Gem Prep’s new home allowed the school to grow its impact by 50% in its first year alone. 

At their target enrollment, GPP’s capacity is 127 square feet per student.

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