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Stanford Drops Tech Campus Bid as Cornell Announces $350M Gift

By Amy Zimmer | December 16, 2011 3:09pm | Updated on December 16, 2011 5:19pm
A rendering of Stanford's proposed $2.5 billion, 1.9-million-square-foot eco-friendly campus on Roosevelt Island.
A rendering of Stanford's proposed $2.5 billion, 1.9-million-square-foot eco-friendly campus on Roosevelt Island.
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Stanford University

MANHATTAN — Stanford University, considered one of the front-runners in a bid to build a new high-tech campus for engineering and applied sciences in the city, shocked the engineering community by withdrawing its application Friday.

Shortly after the Palo Alto, Calif.-based heavyweight made its announcement, Cornell University — considered Stanford's main rival — announced a $350 million gift from an anonymous donor to support its proposal to build the campus. The donation is the largest in the university's history, the Ithaca-based school said.

Stanford launched a major publicity campaign to build a massive $2.5 billion eco-friendly campus on Roosevelt Island, enlisting such former alums as the founders of Google to pitch its plan. But after several weeks of negotiations with the city, school officials said pursuing the campus — which carried the promise of up to $100 million in city funds for infrastructure upgrades — was no longer in Stanford’s best interest.

"Stanford was very excited to participate in the competition, and we were honored to be selected as a finalist," university president John Hennessy said in a statement.

"We were looking forward to an innovative partnership with the city of New York, and we are sorry that together we could not find a way to realize our mutual goals."

Hennessy said the school could not be certain it would move forward in a way that would guarantee the campus’s success, so it wanted to bow out and let the city proceed with its selection process and meet its tight deadlines.

"I appreciate the tremendous effort put forth at all levels of the university and the city," Hennessy said. “We are grateful for the enthusiastic support of the tech community both in New York and in Silicon Valley, the efforts of our alumni and the welcome we received throughout New York and from residents of Roosevelt Island in particular."

A partnership the school forged with City College of New York to work on the proposal will continue and help students in both programs in other facets, he said.

The city received seven bids from 17 institutions for the competition, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not ruled out selecting more than one winner.

"This competition is about changing the future of the city's economy, and we are thrilled that we have a number of proposals that we believe will do exactly that," a spokeswoman for Bloomberg said.

"We are in serious negotiations with several of the other applicants, each of whom has a game-changing project queued up. We look forward to announcing a winner soon.

"We thank Stanford for participating in our process and wish them good luck."

Friday's gift announcement from Cornell, which has teamed up with the Israeli heavyweight Technion, re-affirmed that it is still in the running for its proposed eco-friendly campus on Roosevelt Island.

"At Cornell, our entire community has come together, in a way that happens only so often in an institution's history, with winning ideas, energy and the creativity that the Mayor's challenge deserves," said Cornell University President David J. Skorton in a statement. 

"We look forward to continuing to discuss our proposal and our vision with the Bloomberg administration as the process moves forward."

Cornell would create 2 million square feet on Roosevelt Island after the city-owned Goldwater Hospital, on the southern tip, closes in 2014. The campus would have nearly 2,000 grad students and 250 faculty on a “sustainable campus” that would include space for class, for incubating startups, housing and community gardens officials said.

Other bidders include Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon, eyeing a new campus on the abandoned Navy Hospital at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where it reportedly wants to create a new entertainment technology center in partnership with Steiner Studios.

Columbia University submitted a bid to expand its footprint uptown with a new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering as part of its $6 billion Manhattanville expansion plan.