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Urban Upgrades

NYC’s universities have embarked on robust capital programs

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Aiming to grow to meet an increasing demand for higher education, New York City’s major universities are investing in substantial upgrades to their campuses.

Image courtesy of Columbia University
ABOVE: Columbia University is developing its $6.3 billion Manhattanville campus in Harlem to accommodate future growth.
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“It’s a strong segment in the New York construction market,” says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress in Manhattan. “Institutional coupled with infrastructure is sustaining the industry at this point.”

New York University, Columbia University and the City University of New York have multiple projects in the works. In addition, Weill Cornell Medical College broke ground in May on its $650 million, 18-story Medical Research Building; Mount Sinai School of Medicine began constructing its $264 million, 409,927-sq-ft Center for Science & Medicine, an 11-story, steel-frame research center, a Bovis Lend Lease of New York project, in June 2009; and Rockefeller University is adding a $290 million Collaborative Research Center, being built by Turner Construction of New York.

“There is a lot of university work going on, and it’s been a good part of our portfolio,” says Charlie Murphy, senior vice president and general manager of Turner’s New York office.

New York University

New York University has launched its NYU 2031: NYU in NYC initiative, calling for up to 6 million sq ft of additional space in the city.

“[The plan] emerged from our conversations with the community,” says John Beckman, vice president of public affairs at NYU. “For many years, they had been asking NYU for a strategic plan, so they could understand what NYU’s needs were.”

SMWM of San Francisco led the planning effort that would provide a framework for how the university would grow leading up to its bicentennial anniversary in 2031.

NYU could not provide a cost estimate for NYU 2031, due to a number of variables, such as the need to acquire property, Beckman says. Turner is currently working with the university on pricing and scheduling.

Between 1990 and 2005, NYU’s student body increased 24.5%. It now has 160 sq ft of academic space per student. The planned additions will bring that to 240 sq ft per student. By way of comparison, Harvard 673 sq ft and Yale 866 sq ft per student. The program will add as much as 3.5 million sq ft of academic space, 1.5 million sq ft of student housing, 500,000 sq ft of faculty housing and 500,000 sq ft of student services space.

“The strategic framework recognizes that all of the space NYU needs for its academic mission over the next 20-plus years cannot be filled in it’s own neighborhood,” Beckman says.

Therefore half of the new construction will take place in remote sites—along Manhattan’s Eastside health corridor, near NYU Medical Center; in downtown Brooklyn; or on Governors Island, due to space constraints in its current Greenwich Village location.

The NYU College of Nursing will be the first to move to the Eastside health corridor. Demolition has begun on a building NYU owns to create space for the College of Nursing and to house a portion of the College of Dentistry.

NYU has formally affiliated with the Polytech Institute in Brooklyn. Over the next few years, Beckman expects they will fully merge. NYU-Polytech has 1 million sq ft of development rights in its neighborhood in which the university could add facilities that would benefit by being in proximity to the School of Engineering.

Development on Governors Island will result from a public-approvals process. NYU would like to start an urban science program at the island.

“NYU has been straightforward about its interest in creating a program on Governors Island, which would also be in the range of a million sq ft or so,” Beckman says. “We wouldn’t want to be out there on our own. We would want other development simultaneously.”

In the Greenwich neighborhood, NYU will focus on adaptive reuse and below-grade improvements to its existing structures. It does not plan to take additional properties through eminent domain or to request zoning variances. Two super blocks, created by a slum clearance program decades ago and owned by NYU, hold the greatest potential for redevelopment at its existing location, Beckman says. Those parcels could accommodate four buildings, ranging from 1.5 million to 2 million sq ft.


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