N.Y. Educators Planning Expansions

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New York is home to a larger number of students than any other American city, according to the city’s Economic Development Corp., and colleges and universities are planning to spend more than $15 billion in expansion costs meet their growing needs.

Much of the construction is set to start during the next several months.

At the City University of New York, one of the nation’s largest urban public universities, construction for the first phase of the CUNY-Wide Advanced Science Research Center project will begin this fall at City College’s South Campus, where it will build a 189,000-square-foot research facility providing state-of-the-art laboratories for the university’s top research faculty in one location.

CUNY, which is made up of 23 institutions serving more than 232,000 students, plans to expand every one its 21 campuses, at a cost in excess of $5 billion.

“This is the largest capital plan in CUNY’s history and is part and parcel of the CUNY renaissance, bringing us more top-performing students each year,” a principal at Bernstein Investment Management, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of CUNY (and a graduate of its Queens College), said.

The facilities at CUNY include 290 buildings, or 26.1 million square feet of space. A substantial amount of the space on the campuses is more than 30 years old; more than 75% was built before 1970, and the average building is about 50 years old.

One of CUNY’s largest projects will be at the Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Construction is under way on a 194,000-square-foot building that will provide the college with a complete range of instructional spaces, faculty offices, and support facilities. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2010.

Construction is also under way at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The $352 million, 600,000-square-foot expansion west of Tenth Avenue, between 58th and 59th streets, is expected to be completed by 2010.

This fall, construction is scheduled to begin on a new, 98,000-square-foot North Instructional Building at the Bronx Community College, which will house instructional space, a new library, and support areas. The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2011.

“As the university’s reputation continues to rise, more and more students — especially high academic achievers — are choosing CUNY,” the executive vice chancellor and chief executive of the university, Allan Dobrin, said. “Enrollment is at a 30-year high. We are also seeing a trend of more students who want to study in New York City. Our capital budget reflects our efforts meet this demand to provide appropriate facilities.”

More than 100 real estate investors and developers have expressed an interest in answering the request for a proposal to be selected for the redevelopment of CUNY’s Hunter College, Brookdale Campus. The development site is on a 4.2-acre property situated at 425 E. 25th St. The site currently houses Hunter College’s School of Health Professions, the Brookdale Center on Aging, a center for AIDS, drugs, and community health, and a dormitory.

The Brookdale request for proposal is part of a larger anticipated development that includes a new Hunter College of Science and Health Professions facility on a site currently occupied by the Julia Richman Education Complex, at 317 E. 67th St. CUNY will relocate the Julia Richman Education Complex and build a new facility of about 304,000 square feet next to the Brookdale site, with access from First Avenue and 25th Street. Another important component of the proposal is to maintain, rebuild, or relocate the 600-bed dormitory.

Perhaps the biggest problem facing a developer aiming to win the Brookdale proposal is the ability to secure financing. “Banks’ underwriting standards have gotten a little more conservative, thus requiring creative solutions,” the senior managing director at Rose Associates, James Hedden, said. “Financing is a big part of the structure which determines cost, so having the right team in place is critical to the affordability of the student housing. You need a developer who can not only deliver you the best location, but also has the wherewithal and experience to attract financing at the best terms available.”

Over the next 25 years, Columbia University is planning an enormous expansion. It will spend between $6 billion and $7 billion to develop about 17 additional acres near its 36-acre campus. In December 2007, the City Council granted Columbia’s request for a zoning change, enabling it to institute an expansion that would include the area between 125th and 133rd streets, from Broadway to the Hudson River.

Fordham University is working on plans to expand its Lincoln Center campus (on the superblock bounded by Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, and 60th to 62nd streets). This would provide about 2.36 million square feet of additional space, including approximately 1.08 million square feet of academic space and 539,000 square feet of new dormitory space. It would also allow for about 742,500 square feet of new non-Fordham residential space, in the form of two apartment buildings on the northwest and southwest corners of the campus superblock, to be built by private developers. In addition, 470 parking spaces would be provided in two below-grade parking garages.

The initial phase of construction would create a larger Fordham Law School to replace the existing one, a new student center or dormitory, the two apartment buildings, and approximately 223 parking spaces — 155 spaces for Fordham students and faculty and 68 spaces for the first apartment building. It is anticipated that this phase could be complete by 2012.

Classes will begin next Tuesday, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony taking place September 9, when Fordham opens its new campus in Westchester County. Fordham Westchester will be situated in a three-story, 62,500-square-foot building that will house Fordham’s adult undergraduate program, as well as its graduate schools of Social Service, Religion, Education, and Business Administration.

Fordham Westchester is on the White Plains border, just off Interstate 287 near the Hutchinson Parkway and Route 684. The university has signed a 20-year lease with GHP Office Properties for the campus, which includes 26 newly designed classrooms with such technological features as smart boards, teleconferencing capabilities, and new seating and learning areas. The campus is in West Harrison, on a 32-acre site in a building owned by GHP Office Properties.

New York University is also in the midst of an expansion. Construction is planned throughout the campus of the school, one of the largest private universities in America. NYU, which is composed of 14 schools, colleges, and divisions, occupies major swaths of Manhattan. Perhaps the largest expansion, however, already happened. On July 1, NYU and the Polytechnic University officially combined to create the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. It followed a $130 million upgrade to the MetroTech campus in downtown Brooklyn in 2002, which included an academic building, a modern residence hall, a new athletic facility, new labs, and a state-of-the-art computing infrastructure.

Construction is also under way for the 14-story, 120,000-square-foot Boricua College, the centerpiece of the 4.5-acre Boricua Village near Yankee Stadium. An accredited liberal arts school founded to meet the needs of Puerto Rican and other Hispanic students, Boricua College employs a bilingual faculty and staff. The new building will allow Boricua to increase enrollment to 3,000 students from 1,200 students.

The project is part of the redevelopment of Melrose Commons, one of the poorest sections of New York City, according to reports. The housing component of Boricua Village is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s citywide “affordable” housing initiative.

Throughout the city of New York, private and public colleges and universities are expanding to meet the needs of New York and the world. The biggest obstacle facing this expansion is the lack of available land and the inability to finance the projects.

Mr. Stoler, a contributing editor to The New York Sun, is a television and radio broadcaster and a senior principal at a real estate investment fund. He can be reached at mstoler@newyorkrealestatetv.com.

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