Cornell NYC Tech campus mixes students, executives

NEW YORK -- A high-powered, high-tech graduate school meant to link research and the real world would feature company offices along with classrooms, under a newly released master plan.

Students walking to their apartments might encounter executives heading to a conference on Cornell NYC Tech's park-like campus on Roosevelt Island, according to a plan being submitted Monday for a city review.

"We're really looking at the opportunity, here in the city, to develop a new level of graduate and research campus for the Information Age," said the school's dean, Dan Huttenlocher.

The plan provides a newly detailed look at a project promoted as key in making New York a tech-sector magnet _ and lured with free city land and up to $100 million in publicly paid improvements. Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology won a seven-way contest last year to create the school, set to open with a handful of master's students in temporary space in January.

The plan envisions hosting 1,400 students, professors and tech company workers on a park-like campus on the East River island by 2017. The campus would grow to accommodate 5,400 people by 2037.

City officials call it an economic-development engine that will help ideas get beyond the ivory tower. Cornell leaders also see the project as reinventing academic research for a more collaborative age.

Hence a school that would pair every student with a tech-industry mentor, rent space to companies and technology-minded nonprofits, and have an "executive education center" _ read: conference facility _ that could include a 225-room hotel, under the master plan crafted by the architecture powerhouse Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The 12-acre campus would replace a public rehabilitation hospital, which city officials say was already slated to close, on the residential island.

"This is not `build an office park on Roosevelt Island.' That doesn't make sense for anybody," Huttenlocher said. But as technology research and commerce become more closely intertwined, he said, "physical proximity and ability to work together is crucial."

The working-together theme is visible in renderings for the first academic building, designed by Morphosis Architects, a firm known for its adventuresome work for colleges and other clients.

The building is sprinkled with work stations, "huddle rooms" for work on joint projects and casual spaces for shooting the technological breeze. (It also includes six classrooms; the graduate programs emphasize research and so have a limited need for traditional classrooms.) It also may feature a roof lined with solar panels, part of a slate of ideas for making it a "net-zero" energy building _ one that generates as much power as it uses. Officials acknowledge that's a challenge for a structure devoted to electricity-hungry technology.

Andrew Winters, who's spearheading the planning for Cornell Tech, declined to say how much the campus is expected to cost. Developers would pay to put up some of the buildings _ those intended for companies' and nonprofits' use _ and then would recoup money by leasing them to Cornell and other tenants, officials said.


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