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Second Chinese university school may join school venture

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A second Chinese university may join businessman James Ma in his enhanced plans to establish an English-as-a-second-language school at the former Academy at Ivy Ridge in the town of Oswegatchie.

“We are still working with Qingdao University,” Mr. Ma said Thursday in an email transmission from his native China. “Besides, there is another university in Shanghai showing great interest to collaborate with us. We are getting positive progress with them, too.”

Mr. Ma and officials from state-run Qingdao University, both from China’s Shangdong Province, and the Chinese government are still negotiating an agreement whereby his proposed school would co-exist with the university’s U.S. campus.

“We are still planning for a fall 2013 opening,” Mr. Ma said.

A delegation of administrators from Qingdao University came here in July to tour the 238-acre campus of the former reform school located west of the city on Route 37. Mr. Ma bought the campus in 2011 for $1.5 million. It is likely that a similar group from the university in Shanghai, which he declined to identify Thursday, will do the same.

And such a visit could possibly be a sign of a done deal.

“We will try to reach an agreement before they come for a visit,” Mr. Ma said. “We are still discussing how the partnership would be.”

The Qingdao University administrators were impressed with what they saw here in July and told government officials as much in a report to them earlier this fall. Mr. Ma, who also has a residence in the town of Oswegatchie, had a follow-up meeting with them in China.

Mr. Ma has made other investments in the town and the city. He has plans for them all that are tied to the school, and said he is “still working” on them. He wants to develop a 20-home subdivision on 102 acres of land that he owns near the campus, north of Route 37 off of Lee Road.

The homes would be for his Chinese friends who want a second residence in the United States, employees of the school, visiting parents of the students there and anyone who wants to buy.

Also on Route 37, Mr. Ma owns the former United Helpers Cedars Nursing Home and plans to possibly convert it to a hotel. He has said he has not ruled out other possible uses.

Mr. Ma also owns the former Sholette’s Steak and Ale restaurant at 1000 Linden St., Ogdensburg, where he plans to open an authentic Chinese restaurant and specialty shops.

Ivy Ridge closed in 2009. Before Ivy Ridge operated there, the campus housed Mater Dei College.

Mr. Ma anticipates spending $2 million on renovations to the campus.

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