Cornellians flooding into Collegetown this August will notice extended University presence with the construction of an office of Information Science in 301 College Ave., a space that has been vacant since the Triangle Bookshop Inc. left in late 1999.
Cornell signed a ten year lease for 10,000 square feet, occupying the first floor of the multi-story building across the street. Construction began April 10 on the office space and according to Brenda Holbert of Christa Corporation, the construction company that will convert the former bookstore into a multi-functional facility.
According to John Majeroni, director of the Cornell real estate office, the University first became interested in the space last summer. The University then approached the City to begin a process to occupy the lot but the proceedings were suspended because the University had to appeal for a zoning variance. The space was listed for retail use but this would be an office space. City zoning deemed the vacancy for retail use which does not require parking but as the University intended the space for office use, the University requested a zoning variance to proceed.
“There weren’t enough parking spaces there. It had a retail designation on it and we were changing it to office [which requires parking spaces],” said Tom LiVigne, operations manager in the real estate office.
The University committed to the ten year lease in January and after routine bidding signed on with the Christa Corporation April 15 and 17.
The space at 301 College Ave. will house the an office for Information Science, a newly developed program in the office of computer and information science. According to Robert Constable, dean of computer and information science (CIS), the office will research on the next stage of arXiv, the informational system developed by Prof. Paul Ginsberg, physics, as well as further research on the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), a project led by Prof. Bill Arms, computer science.
Additionally, “it will also house a ‘useability laboratory’ in which professors Geri Gay of communications and Phoebe Sengers of [Science and Technology Studies] will design and study the next generation of user interface to services such as arXiv and NSDL as well as to many other information resources,” Constable added.
The new office will open immediately following construction completion which, according to Holbert, the University contract with Christa should occur later than June 28, 2002.
“The University ran out of space to house the information scientists needed to do the work,” Constable said.
The office location was, “certainly not ideal. We were hoping to be housed in Rhodes Hall but that is probably the most crowded building on campus right now. Engineering, computer science, CIS and the theory center all share the space. It was either turn down all these generous grants or [take the off campus office facility].”
Keeping with the trend of University expansion into Collegetown, most prominently with the opening of the eCornell office in the ground level of 312 College Ave., the University ultimately chose the off-campus space due to a lack of space on campus.
“Room on campus is under high demand. It’s pretty normal for bid organizations like Cornell to move into surrounding areas for space reasons,” Majeroni said.
However, in spite of the recent trend of the University moving into Collegetown, Majeroni said the movement, “not part of any giant plan to move in and takeover Collegetown.”
The office space was modeled on the eCornell office across the street and flexibility was a priority in design Constable said. Extensive renovations of the first floor at 301 College Ave. will include complete removal of ceilings, floorings and walls.
Demountable partitions will allow office space to be temporarily divided or expanded and the space will also be ideal for seminars. Glass fronts will open the office space to the street, according to Bob Spitulnik Christa Corporation
“It’s going to be a very classy space,” he said.
Constable expressed the excitement of those who will be working in the new office and participated in the design process.
“Location of the laboratory in Collegetown will make it easier for subjects of user studies to access a Cornell facility and get good coffee nearby,” Constable said.
“I think having University [presence] in Collegetown is good for both the students and staff. Students have easier access to interact with campus [facilities] in that area,” LiVigne said.
Archived article by Laura Rowntree