Cornell Secures Lease for Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island

By Lindsay Armstrong on December 16, 2013 6:08pm 

 A rendering of Cornell NYC Tech on Roosevelt Island.
A rendering of Cornell NYC Tech on Roosevelt Island.
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ROOSEVELT ISLAND — Cornell University has secured the last major piece of the puzzle needed to begin construction on its Roosevelt Island tech campus.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation — a state-run agency that handles transportation and public safety issues on the island — agreed last week to transfer control of a 2.6-acre plot of land to Cornell before the construction that's set to start next year, the RIOC said.

Under the original deal, Cornell and the state agreed to pay $1.4 million per year to RIOC to lease the land over the next 55 years, with $1 million coming from the state and $400,000 from the university. However, RIOC later pressed the state to pay its contribution in full by December 31, 2018, rather than making 55 annual payments, the agency said. The state is ultimately expected to agree to that deal.

The RIOC will then transfer the lease for the land to the city, which will officially lease it to Cornell under a 99-year agreement.

The agreement requires Cornell to comply with certain conditions during construction, including making infrastructure improvements to the Loop Road that runs around the site of the future campus, and mitigating air and noise pollution, the RIOC said. In addition, the RIOC maintains the right to review work plans for the site and to monitor the work being done.

Many Roosevelt Island residents have responded favorably to the agreement, in spite of initial doubts.

“[RIOC president and CEO Charlene] Indelicato drove a hard bargain and did extract some hard-hitting and meaningful concessions from Cornell," a commenter wrote on local blog The Roosevelt Islander.

In another major development for the plan, Cornell announced Monday that The Hudson and Related Companies have been tapped to construct the campus’s first residential building. The 350-unit high-rise will be made up of micro units, as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments reserved for students, faculty and staff, the university said. It will also include amenities such as a gym, a roof deck and a multimedia room.

Award-winning firm Handel Architects will design the building in consultation with sustainability experts from Burro Happold. Their goal is to incorporate design features that will reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

Cornell hopes that the state-of-the-art residence will attract major league talent to the school.

“The residential building is a critical piece of Cornell Tech’s ability to attract the best talent by creating a 24/7 community of graduate students and faculty, with outstanding on-campus residential facilities that complement the leading-edge academic environment,” said Cornell Tech Dean Dan Huttenlocher in a press release.

Construction crews are expected break ground on the campus in 2014, with work on the residential building slated to begin in 2015.

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