Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Universities to spend billions on expansion

Universities to spend billions on expansion
By Matt Westmoreland
Princetonian Staff Writer

Courtesy of University Partners
(Expand Photo)The University of Pennsylvania is beginning a 30-year, $2 billion expansion project called Penn Connects that will add more than one million square feet to its campus. The University's plan to add between 1.5 and 2 million square feet of new structures to campus over the next 10 years is just one of the five major expansion projects currently underway in the Ivy League. Constant construction and expansion on college campuses across the country have come to be expected as institutions of higher learning struggle to keep up with advancements in the sciences and other areas.
"Learning is a growth business," Executive Vice President Mark Burstein said. "The quest for knowledge takes more space. It gets more complicated with each generation."
Burstein said the one common theme among expansion plans at the nation's top universities is the need to create state-of-the-art, modern research space. But he said Princeton is different than most schools.
"We have the unique challenge where we don't separate research from teaching," he said. "We like to have teaching spaces in and sometimes co-located with research."
Projects on the Princeton campus include a $450 million complex to house the psychology department and the new neuroscience institute; a $300 million, 250,000 square-foot creative and performing arts neighborhood; new buildings for the chemistry and ORFE departments; and an addition to the E-Quad.
Burstein said that throughout Princeton's expansion process, administrators have worked hard to keep the campus as walkable as possible. "All the projects are on our existing campus," he said. "We are trying to create neighborhoods of teaching, research and living."
Though Princeton's proposed projects are extensive, Harvard's expansion plan is the largest and most expensive among the Ivy League schools. The institution has purchased more than 200 acres in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, just across the Charles River from its main campus in Cambridge. Plans call for constructing 9 to 10 million square feet of buildings in Allston over the next half-century, with more than a third of the new space going to support the sciences.
"Allston is an important project for Harvard because it allows a chance for the University to re-imagine itself as one university instead of many parts scattered around Cambridge and Boston working independently," Harvard University spokesman Josh Poupore said in an email. "It is an opportunity to define what a sustainable campus of the 21st century can and should be."
Expansion into Allston will include an interdisciplinary science campus, the relocation of the schools of education and public health, and new undergraduate housing along the Charles River. The project will also include improved infrastructure, expanded green space and facilities for arts and culture.
"Providing a place where interdisciplinary collaboration can happen on a variety of fronts is becoming increasingly important," Poupore said. "Professors, administrators and students alike are beginning to transcend the traditional boundaries of schools and departments and disciplines to come together in a common interest on important real world problems in their teaching and research."
Like Harvard, Columbia has outgrown its current campus and is looking elsewhere for additional land in its urban environment. The New York City institution has purchased 17 acres in Manhattanville, a West Harlem neighborhood eight blocks north of its 36-acre main campus. Administration officials said in an email that the decision to expand on a new campus came after Columbia exhausted all its opportunities to grow within its immediate neighborhood.
"Columbia is, I think, unique among the Ivies in the severity of our space problems, which affect almost every area of the university," Columbia Provost Alan Brinkley '71 said. "Because of our location in Manhattan, expansion has been much more difficult for us than for most other universities."
The university's plans call for spending nearly $6 billion over the next 30 years to add approximately 6.8 million square feet of academic space on the Manhattanville campus. Brinkley said the expansion will relieve current problems with inadequate space, provide space for future growth and allow for more interdisciplinary research and teaching.
Columbia's planned expansion into Manhattanville has drawn more opposition from community and neighborhood organizers than other projects in the Ivy League. Columbia Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin '80 said in an interview that, while a community group of "two dozen people" has voiced opposition, there is much broader area support, including endorsements from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The plan was also approved by the city's Planning Commission by a 10-1 vote on Nov. 28.
"We believe that this expansion of Columbia will be good for the community," Brinkley said. "It will create a significant number of new jobs for people in the neighborhood, provide many amenities to the community and not displace any large numbers of residents." The university has pledged not to use eminent domain to evict Manhattanville residents, and Brinkley said the university has also promised to "provide them with equivalent or better housing in the neighborhood if and when we might wish to build on their space."
Kasdin said that the first phase of the project will include construction of new homes for the schools of business, arts and international affairs, as well as a major science center devoted to the study of mind, brain and behavior. He added that construction will begin as soon as possible after the plan receives final approval from the New York City Council and Mayor Bloomberg.
Princeton's Ivy League neighbor to the south is also preparing for major additions to its campus. The University of Pennsylvania is in the early stages of a 30-year, $2 billion expansion project called Penn Connects that will add more than 1.4 million square feet to its campus, largely for advances in the sciences.
"One of the commitments that [President] Gutmann has made in Penn Connects is the idea of integrating knowledge," Penn Executive Director for Public Affairs Tony Sorrentino said. "The idea of having all 12 of Penn's schools on one contiguous campus is important to having research that can be cross-pollinated and finding a place for those parts to come together."
Penn acquired 24 acres just east of its campus in July 2006 from the U.S. Postal Service, which was moving its Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center to southwest Philadelphia. It was the last piece of land separating the university from downtown Philadelphia. "We now have in our possession a huge assemblage of land to the east that gives us the time and space to grow without uprooting any neighborhoods and intact areas," Sorrentino said.
In the coming years, Penn will begin construction on the $300 million Pearlman Center for Advanced Medicine, a $261 million biomedical research facility, the $140 million Roberts Proton Therapy Center and a $100 million residential hall. The expansion will also include the $80 million Singh Center for Nanotechnology, a $78.5 million neural and behavioral sciences building and a new $34 million home for the Annenberg Policy Center.
Sorrentino said that despite Penn's expansion into the postal territory, administrators are dedicated to keeping the campus walkable for students. "One of the greatest qualities of Penn's campus is its pedestrian-friendly nature," he said. "We're very committed to having the newly acquired lands to the east feel very organically linked to the rest of the campus."
Unlike Harvard and Columbia, Penn has faced minimal public opposition to its efforts. Expansion projects during the 1950s and 1960s often resulted in severe town-gown conflicts, but since that time, Sorrentino said the university has taken conscious steps to improve relations with neighbors.
"We have a very proactive and aggressive community relations strategy in which we meet with our local neighborhood and civic associations formally once a month and present our building, construction and transportation plans," he said.Yale Plans for expansion are also underway at Yale, where administrators are considering what would be one of the most expensive construction projects on a single site in Connecticut history.
While a final decision by the Yale Corporation won't come until February, the project to construct two new residential colleges is projected to cost nearly $600 million. If the colleges house about 400 students each — the average number of students in each of Yale's existing colleges — the cost would be about $750,000 per student.
"It would really be a mistake to add residential colleges that did not have the kind of spaciousness and amenities of our existing colleges," Yale President Richard Levin told the Yale Daily News in October. "You wouldn't want to create a sort of second-class status at Yale."
The university has already made a $500 million investment in buildings, which are currently under construction, dedicated to sculpture and art history. In addition, officials will break ground in the coming months on a 230,000 square-foot, $150 million building for the School of Management. Yale officials also announced plans in October 2006 for a nanoscience and quantum engineering institute. (Respond to this story)(Email this story to a

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