January 30, 2014

Gannett Health Services to Expand by 2017

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With Gannett Health Services currently unable to “accomodate current campus health needs,” the University plans to more than double the overall size of the center by 2017, according to University officials.

The University will expand the center’s usable space from 25,000 square feet to 52,000 square feet and update the facility to comply with current health standards. As part of a $55 million renovation, the expansion will allow space for patients in crisis, according to Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett.

A rendering of proposed changes to Gannett Health Services depicts renovations. (Courtesy of Chiang O’Brien Architects)

A rendering of proposed additions to Gannett Health Services depicts renovations viewed from Ho Plaza. (Courtesy of Chiang O’Brien Architects)

A rendering of proposed additions to Gannett Health Services depicts renovations viewed from Campus Road. (Courtesy of Chiang O’Brien Architects)

A floor plan of proposed additions to Gannett Health Services depicts renovations viewed from above. (Courtesy of Chiang O’Brien Architects)

Gannett’s current building, which dates back to 1956, will expand primarily in the back of the building, Dittman said. Other renovations will include a redesigned lobby area for general information, new visiting and examination rooms and a renovated and relocated entranceway facing Ho Plaza.

The additional space will increase the size of waiting areas, offices and exam rooms, since many existing spaces are too small to accommodate Cornell’s student population, according to Dittman.

Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board reviewed the sketch plan for the renovation — which includes a summary and renderings of the project — Tuesday. The final plan will be reviewed in April, and construction will begin in March 2015 and end in Aug. 2017, according to Dittman.

Dittman said the University has been exploring options to improve the health services facility “since the middle of the last decade,” though the project was originally tabled in 2009 due to the financial crisis.

“The pressures on the Gannett facility had required several health services departments to move out of the building, staff in the building to work in increasingly tight spaces [and] the growing number of patients and clients to crowd into tighter waiting areas, exam rooms and counseling offices,” Dittman said.

According to Dittman, Gannett was last renovated in 1979, when there were 5,000 fewer students, demand per student was lower and there were fewer regulatory compliance requirements.

“The current facility was not designed to accommodate current campus health needs, nor to facilitate the provision of integrated health care services,” Dittman said. “The project is envisioned as a transformation of the university health services facility.”

The project cost will be funded by a “unique partnership among the deans of all of the schools and colleges, the administration and donors,” Dittman said.

Two-thirds of the project funding will be covered by the colleges and administrative units and are already in place, while the remainder is still being raised through philanthropy, Dittman said. Last July, Cornell Board of Trustees Chair Robert S. Harrison ’76 and his wife, Jane Harrison, donated $5 million to the project, The Sun previously reported.

The project will be completed with assistance and design from local architectural firms Chiang O’Brien Architects and Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects LLP. The co-founder and president of Chiang O’Brien Architects, Grace Chiang ’81, studied architecture at Cornell and has worked on projects for the University since the 1990s.

“Chiang O’Brien Architects is delighted to be working on this extremely important project with the University to transform the health center in a way that will allow the physical facility to support their expansive health care services,” Chiang said. “We are extremely pleased that the University chose us to design this facility for them.”

Dittman said the Gannett staff looks forward to working with Chiang’s firm, as well as the prospect of the renovation in general.

“The entire Gannett team shares a sense of excitement and gratitude for this opportunity to engage with the architects, the campus community, and our generous benefactors to build a facility that ­­reflects the centrality of health in Cornell’s values and mission,” she said.