NYC Universities Started 463 Building Projects in 5 Years
NYC Universities Started 463 Building Projects in 5 Years

In the past five years, the city’s 105 colleges have started work on 463 construction projects. 

New York University’s (NYU’s) 2-million-square-foot expansion, Columbia University’s 6.8- million-square-foot Manhattanville Campus expansion, and the new Cornell Tech campus coming to Roosevelt Island are among the largest in scope, but a variety of factors are driving upgrades and expansions across campuses in all five boroughs.

According to a new report by the Building Congress, construction spending is expected to total $10 billion from 2012–2017. 

“While New York City is well known as a global capital of business and for its exceptional cultural offerings, perhaps it is time to add ‘college town’ to the Big Apple’s long list of defining traits,” Columbia executive vice president Joseph Ienuso said in a statement.

Science Facilities

Much of the larger investments are related to upgrading science facilities.

The Weill Cornell Medical College is finishing up its $622 million Belfer Research Building, and the College of Staten Island is making a series of upgrades to its existing facilities. 

The City University of New York (CUNY) is undertaking a $1.6 billion Decade of Science initiative. The project includes an Advanced Science Research Center and new science lab, both about 200,000 square feet. CUNY currently has a total of 11 major projects in various stages. 

According to Real Estate Weekly, CUNY director of space planning Meghan Moore-Wilk said at a recent real estate panel that many university buildings haven’t been updated since the 1960s, and the amount of funding universities have for construction is actually not keeping pace with the renovations that are necessary. 

Columbia’s initiatives are similarly driven by the need to keep these science facilities up to date.

“For us, it’s not so much driven by enrollment as by continually evolving needs in science,” Ienuso said at a recent panel. Columbia is currently building a 1-million- square-foot science campus as a part of their expansion project. 

NYU’s $3 billion expansion plan in Greenwich Village has been highly contested, but the university is making tech upgrades with an expansion into Brooklyn as well. The university recently bought the 14-story former Metropolitan Transportation Authority headquarters at 370 Jay Street, which will become the new building for their Center for Urban Science and Progress.

Economic Impact

According to the Building Congress report, higher education construction activity was responsible for 45,000 temporary jobs and $3.6 billion in labor income. 

Building Congress forecasts $9.85 billion in direct capital investments from 2013–2017. 

“New York City is in the midst of a higher education building boom, which is certainly great news in the near term for the construction industry and the local economy,” Building Congress president Richard Anderson said in a press release.

“Far more important, however, is the fact that these institutions, which employ hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, prepare our future leaders, play active roles in their communities, and are aggressively investing in their futures.”

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