Monday, February 25, 2013

Cornell Tech Campus Plans Well Ahead of Schedule

By 2017, Cornell's New York tech campus on Roosevelt Island may have as much as 800,000 square feet of space built. That is more than twice as much as is required by the school's agreement with the city, according to campus planners. In its bid to create the new tech campus, Cornell agreed to build a minimum of 300,000 square feet by 2017, but the current plans well surpass that. Plans for phase one of construction is moving well ahead of schedule and calls for four buildings.

Current plans call for construction of four buildings: an academic building; an executive education center with a hotel; a so-called corporate co-location building; and a residential building for students, faculty and staff.

At a recent presentation hosted by Cornell, the university's real estate consultant Karen Backus said the corporate co-location building would be about 150,000 square feet.

Two thirds of it will be rented out to tech businesses in an effort to foster close relationships between those firms and the school.

"In a typical campus there are real boundaries between business and academia," Ms. Backus said, adding that Cornell hopes to do away with those boundaries.

Cornell is in the process of selecting a developer for the three non-academic buildings, and is considering using a master developer, Ms. Backus said. The academic building will be developed separately.

Meanwhile, the school is prepared to lessen any danger of flooding. Even before Superstorm Sandy, the team planning the Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island had planned to create higher ground on which to build. The school had planned to put all of the buildings at least 19 feet above sea level after studying the 100-year flood plain Mr. Whang said. After the storm, Cornell re-thought the positioning of equipment and decided to move it up from the basement level.

In addition to flooding dangers and all the other considerations the school is juggling, planners are also concerned about aesthetics. That is especially important, given that the campus will be clearly visible from both sides of the East River.

Campus Design Unveiled

The Cornell NYC Tech campus, which currently resides on the third floor of Google’s Chelsea headquarters, begins its march to a permanent home next week, with the start of the city's land use review.

The school has ambitious plans - and has not been shy about making that known.

At a briefing held at 111 Eighth Avenue, the university presented sketches designed by star architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects. Aside from meeting the school's requirements for a flexible interior space, the structures aim to use no more energy than it produces.

If it succeeds, the four-story, 150,000-square-foot main building would be the first academic building anywhere to do so, thanks to solar panels atop the structure and geo-thermal wells underneath it. The futuristic-looking building will be part of the first phase of construction, is scheduled for completion in time for the campus' opening in the summer of 2017.

Introducing the plans, Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell NYC Tech, described the institution as a new kind of applied sciences school. Other graduate research schools, including Cornell and its academic partner in the new venture, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, have all come out of the industrial age. The Roosevelt Island campus will be born of the digital era.

"It's the first graduate research institution where somebody's trying to design it from the ground up in the information age," Mr. Huttenlocher said. In this new age, research and practical applications happen simultaneously, in contrast to the old model in which research came first and practical uses followed.

The overall campus design aims to act out those ambitions.

A "tech walk" thoroughfare will run down the center of the campus, creating a north-south pedestrian spine, onto which all the buildings will open, according to architect Colin Koop, from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which designed the master plan.

Across the tech walk from the academic building will be a co-location building, to be built in partnership with a private developer, where companies and nonprofits will lease space for proprietary research.

Scott Lee, a senior architect at Morphosis, described the academic building as designed for "interdisciplinary" use, with "walkable" open spaces that will encourage interaction between groups. There will be only six classrooms, with a lot of flexible space for teaching and research.

Once the project gets through the seven-month approval process, Cornell will begin demolition of the Goldwater Hospital that now stands on the site in early 2014, said Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning for Cornell NYC Tech.

The first class at Cornell NYC Tech will commence in January 2014.

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