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Sense of Place

Academic Center at St. Francis College (N.Y.)

University Business, Apr 2006

This campus is not just located in Brooklyn Heights. It truly serves the community there, with this new building and others.

FUNCTION: Academic center featuring a library, 14 tech-equipped classrooms, a wireless student lounge, a 90-seat theater/lecture hall, seminar rooms, and a high-definition television studio/digital production facility

CHALLENGE: Bordering a brownstone-filled area overlooking Manhattan, St. Francis College can technically build how it wants to, with zoning regulations in mind. But that's not the approach this 2,100-plus student school takes. It has a tradition of opening its five inter-connected buildings for community use. The historic neighborhood's preference for preservation over new construction was in conflict with the college's capital improvement plan needs. After phase one, which involved adding 10,000 square feet of multipurpose space atop the existing gym, officials had to demolish its library building as part of phase two. Its fa?ade looked nice, but it couldn't have supported the weight of the necessary addition, notes Linda Werbel Dashefsky, vice president for Government and Community Relations.

SOLUTION: Inviting community input through meetings with community organizations, the neighborhood board, and elected officials helped neighbors envision how the Academic Center would benefit everyone. During construction, flyers kept them informed of construction noise and traffic interruptions. And 18 months later, when the center opened, local nonprofits could use even more campus facilities than before-free of charge, as always. "We're so popular, we get booked. Now we can offer multiple venues," says Werbel Dashefsky.

PROJECT COST: $20 million

COMPLETED: January 2006

PROJECT TEAM: Halpern Architects (N.Y.), Turner Construction Company (N.Y.) -M.E.