In Bedroom Community, Birth of a Tech Center

Ann McClure's picture

A canopy of solar cells, a nearly classroom-free academic center, cafes open to the public and even a hotel. The new campus of the Cornell University graduate school for technology is expected to transform Roosevelt Island from a sleepy bedroom community into a high-technology hothouse, and indeed, the plans to be formally unveiled for the campus on Monday bear little resemblance to anything that is there now.

The campus, at the southern end of Roosevelt Island, is to be built in two phases. The first phase, the bulk of which consists of a low-slung academic hub and a taller residential building just south of the Queensboro Bridge, has a projected opening in 2017. Phase Two will comprise several more buildings, aligned along a central walk down the island’s spine. The campus will include several “co-location” buildings, a hallmark of the graduate school, where industry professionals from companies like Facebook and Google can work in concert with graduate students.

And it will not be complete until 2037, according to Cornell officials, a timeline that foretells more than two decades of heavy construction on a spit of land that is 800 feet across at its widest point.

The release of the plans will begin a process of public comment and review expected to last around seven months, beginning with the local community board, and culminating with a vote by the City Council, according to Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the project. If successful, the university hopes to break ground in 2014 on the first phase, which is designed to accommodate more than 1,400 students and faculty and staff members; it would include an executive education center and a privately operated hotel, which would be open to the public. Although Cornell officials said the plans could change, they envision a final campus that holds more than 5,000 people.

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