|[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]
Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 27, 2008
University at Albany plans ahead despite uncertain times
By Saranac Hale Spencer
GUILDERLAND Despite the governor’s sweeping budget-cut proposals and a bleak economic forecast, the University at Albany is making headway on its plans to renovate the decades-old uptown campus.
John Giarrusso and Thomas Yurkewecz presented the university’s plans for projects that have funding and those that are farther fetched during a meeting of the McKownville Improvement Association.
With eyes cast up and a wistful tone, Giarrusso, of the university’s facilities management department said of some aspects of the plan, “If money grew on trees.”
Since the university is public, its funding comes from the state, Giarrusso said, and it received $33.8 million for maintenance for the 2007-08 academic year.
A dearth of on-campus student housing is one of the long-term concerns the school is facing, he said. So far, the plan has no specific remedy, but addressing the housing need may fit with a relatively nebulous goal Giarrusso mentioned encouraging transportation alternatives to cars.
He pointed to the school’s experiment with a Bus Rapid Transit system that could alleviate the need for centrally located parking, which might eventually free up areas near the main campus currently used for parking lots.
Among some of the plans Giarrusso mentioned were a new business school building, a new chemistry building, and revamped landscaping.
“It’s a combination of deferred maintenance that was built up,” he said this week of the renovations for the 1960’s-era campus, and addressing the needs of a modern education.
Part of the $34 million the school has for maintenance is being used to start the design and siting for a new data center, he said. Currently, the school’s computing center is housed in a flood-prone basement in the podium, said Giarrusso.
“The podium is all connected,” he said of the central uptown campus. “The deferred maintenance is coming due all at once.”
In order to renovate the podium, the occupants of the academic buildings need to be housed elsewhere, he said, and the university has $54 million to build a new business school so that updates can begin on the original structure. Funds for the renovation, Giarrusso said, have not yet been secured.
“We’re trying to jam that into a 20-year period,” he said of the school’s plan to renovate the podium. “It assumes a lot of funding we don’t have,” Giarrusso said. But, he concluded at the meeting, “We have to keep planning. We can’t just give up.”
By the end of next year, the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering expects to have 800,000 square feet of facilities with 80,000 square feet of cleanrooms and 2,500 research and development jobs, according to the school’s website.
Part of the university, it has its own growing campus at the intersection of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue Extension.
At the McKownville meeting, Yurkewecz, the college’s vice president for facilities and infrastructure, named each of the four buildings on the campus, saying of NanoFab North, the 228,000-square-foot building finished in late 2005, “This is and was the jewel… It began to really grow the site.”
“We’ve been blessed with that growth,” he said of the last few years.
International Sematech and IBM are among the corporate tenants that rent space in the buildings, Yurkewecz said.
Coming structures to the site include a “Zen building,” which will be a zero-energy building, he said, and a two-story parking garage slated to hold 541 spaces.
“There are no plans to build a four-story garage today,” he told a neighbor of the property who had concerns about the structure. With an architect’s rendition of the modern garage, faced with reflective photovoltaic panels, Yurkewecz said, “Basically, it’s a glamorous looking parking garage.”
Of the school’s history of clearing Pine Bush land for construction workers’ parking, he said, “It’s been a bit of a luxury. It’s a luxury we can’t afford.” For future construction, contractors will be required to have their own off-site parking and workers will be bused in.
Another concern raised by McKownville residents at the meeting was the flooding that has become prevalent in their neighborhood. One man said, “I’ve noticed in the last five, six years my sump pump… is running more or less year-round,” when before it had only been needed in the spring. The recent construction and parking lots built at the college, which began in 1996, might be affecting the water table, he suggested.
“I would be very surprised if we were responsible for that,” Yurkewecz responded.
“We have these major changes going on downhill of you,” said another neighbor, who asked that the college look into the issue.
“We will check it out,” Yurkewecz said.
The university has elected to hold a public scoping session in late January or early February, when students have returned to campus from their winter break, as part of the State Environmental Quality Review process, said Stuart Spiegel, an engineer from O’Brien and Gere who is working with the university. A date has not yet been set, but members of the school and surrounding communities will be invited.