Why is Union renovating its campus?
Union’s campus was built in 1907. Each year, new repairs have been required, and the list of expensive renovations has grown steadily, from antiquated plumbing, heating, and electrical infrastructure to buildings and rooms that are inaccessible to many.
What parts of the campus will be renovated?
Specific projects have not been finalized, but we anticipate that student housing, classrooms, worship, faculty and administrative offices, and general community and meeting spaces on campus will have high priority. We look forward to hearing suggestions from students and community members about how we can best meet their needs.
When will the renovations to existing Union facilities be completed?
No timeline has been established as the project is still in the early planning phases. However, we hope the renovation to the existing facilities will begin by the end of 2018.
Why did Union sell the “air rights” for a new building at the north end of the quad? Why couldn’t money be raised another way?
The Union Board established a Facilities Planning Committee that determined that, at a minimum, addressing just basic needs would invoke staggering costs of more than $100 million. This led the Board to consider numerous alternatives, including moving the Seminary outside of Morningside Heights; turning Union into a non-residential school or think tank; closing the seminary; or partnering with another institution in the neighborhood. In the end, after exhaustive analysis, it was decided that staying in our present location and undertaking a total renovation on site was by far the best option, both educationally and financially. With a desire to not spend endowment funds and without the realistic assurance that funds could be raised, it was decided that the only way to renovate Union’s cherished buildings, and secure Union’s future, was to sell our “vertical real estate,” known in New York City as “air rights.”
Will Union generate profit from the sale of its “air rights”?
The sale of the “air rights” generated sufficient funds for the campus renovations and redesign. We do not foresee there being any leftover funds.
Will the campus renewal increase student housing costs?
Our goal is to keep the cost of attending Union affordable. Rather than raise rates to fund renovations, the money from the air rights sale is expected to cover the cost of the renovations to the existing campus facilities.
How did Union choose the developer for the new residential building?
The process of choosing a developer was extensive and conducted with great care and sensitivity. The Board put out an RFP for developers who would purchase our air rights and in doing so, provide the funding necessary for the campus renewal. Of those who responded, their proposals were carefully reviewed and the Board chose to contract with L & M Partners.
Who are the architects for the campus renewal and the new residential building?
The Board chose the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) to lead us through the complex process of redesigning our existing facilities, in part due to their expertise in restoring and revitalizing historic buildings. BBB will be soliciting input this fall from the entire Union community regarding our present and future need. The developer has not yet finalized their choice of architect for the new residential building.
What is the construction timeline for the new building?
The construction timeline for the new building is still being finalized. We anticipate work to begin sometime in 2018. As we get additional information we will share it here.
Will the construction of the new building use union or non-union labor?
The developer will use a mix of both union and non-union labor on the worksite, giving construction companies in the community an opportunity to bid for work on the site. The majority of the workers will be union.
Will the architecture of the new building be consistent with the current neighborhood and campus aesthetic?
Union has always insisted that the architecture be consistent with our neighborhood and campus. Union and the developer have agreed to design guidelines that the architect will follow to ensure the new buildings blend with the current campus.
How will the new building impact the courtyard and quad?
The footprint of the new building will extend into our courtyard, taking up approximately 1/4-1/3 of our current space. Our plan for the newly designed courtyard is that it continue to be a beautiful, accessible and tranquil space. We will make every attempt to save trees and other wildlife currently in the quad that would be affected by the new building.
Will Union own or occupy any portion of the new building?
Union has purchased eight floors in the base of the new structure to house Union faculty and to provide space for the Episcopal Divinity School.
Will non-Union residents of the new building have access to Union’s campus and facilities?
Residents of the new building will have their own entrance on Claremont. They will not have direct access to our campus buildings or the courtyard.
Have our neighbors and local community groups been consulted about the new residential building?
Union has kept our neighbors apprised of our plans. We have met with the Morningside Heights Community Alliance on an ongoing basis to update them on the progress of our planning and to hear the community concerns. We value our neighbors and will continue to work together to be good partners.
What is Union doing to limit the impact that construction on campus will have on the day-to-day lives of students, faculty and Morningside Heights residents?
Union is working with the developer to try to mitigate as much disruption as possible. However, some disruption, such as noise, is inevitable during certain parts of the construction process.
When will the existing facade renovations be completed?
We do not have an end date yet for completion of the facade renovations. Once we have this information we will share it.
What is the plan for McGiffert Hall?
The Board is in the process of evaluating the various possibilities for the future of McGiffert, including a possible sale. We will continue to use McGiffert until our other renovation and development is complete.
How can I get involved in the campus renovation process?
We will be holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, Oct. 5, when we will be soliciting student input on the campus redesign. We will also hold smaller focus groups that will include faculty, staff and students.
Who can I contact if I have additional questions about the campus renovation?
Questions or concerns about the campus renovation project can be directed to Ben Perry, UTS ’15, assistant director of communications and marketing at Union, He can be reached at 212-280-1591, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, just stop by his office in AD 125.