Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Forest Home Drive construction has been underway for about two years.

September 26, 2017

Cornell Strives to Maintain ‘Competitive’ Edge With Construction Projects

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Ithaca has two seasons: cold and construction.

The origins of this common campus axiom are apparent with every crane touching all Cornell corners. In order to adapt to its needs as a modern University, Cornell has recently been undertaking and completing a variety of construction projects, from the Engineering to Ag Quad.

A number of projects have been underway on and off the Cornell campus.

Graphic by Brian LaPlaca / Sun Design Editor, Photos by Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

A number of projects have been underway on and off the Cornell campus.

Forest Home Drive

Students have grown accustomed to the cranes of Forest Home Drive, which has been closed off for about two years. This project, which falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Ithaca, should be finished by the end of this November.

“The City of Ithaca is working to repair a portion of Forest Home Drive at the Thurston Avenue Bridge,” Lindsey Hadlock, University media relations coordinator, told the Sun. “This section of road is owned by the City, who has advised that they anticipate that the construction will be completed by November 30.”

All in all, construction on campus will not be ending anytime soon. As these projects wrap up, new ones will be started as Cornell continues to strive to be a premier institution.

“The one thing that we’re seeing is that it is a very competitive world in the education space, particularly engineering, and our top competitors are all focused on facilities renovation and getting new faculty, so we’re seeing an increased push to do that,” said Dawn McWilliams, director of marketing and communication for the College of Engineering.

College of Engineering

One of the main focal points of recent construction has been the College of Engineering.

All five floors of Upson Hall have been completely renovated in a project that started in May 2015 and was completed Aug. 22.

“The purpose was to renovate the space so that it was usable in the current way that we do engineering research now,” McWilliams said. “This was a more holistic change to the entire structure of the building. This renovation was dramatic.”

Many engineering buildings were built around 1959 to 1962, and the needs of the departments have evolved since then.

“Back when the infrastructure of the college was built, most of engineering research required a lot of outlets and power,” said Erin Mulrooney, associate dean for administration in the College of Engineering. “Now it requires wetlabs. Now there is so much nano-work and bio-work chemical-work that we need different types of labs, both wet labs and hybrid labs. What we really need is to change what we have in order to do the research and work and education of today.”

The Engineering Quad has been one among a number of construction projects on the Cornell campus.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The Engineering Quad has been one among a number of construction projects on the Cornell campus.

Although there were certain challenges that arose during construction, including noise, dust and the need to relocate several people, McWilliams said that a benefit of the constricted space in Upson Hall during the construction period was that it fostered greater collaboration.

“That changed a lot of the configuration of how that space was put together,” she said. “What we were able to do is that we were able to put faculty researchers together who had common work, which increases the ability for them to collaborate in research … and they’re learning from each other because they all do something that’s a little bit different.”

Upson Hall is also more efficient and environmentally friendly now — the building is on target to be certified as LEED Platinum.

“All these old buildings have developed deferred maintenance issues over the years,” Mulrooney said. “Universities are challenged to keep up with their deferred maintenance backlogs, and often don’t have the resources needed to stay ahead of that curve. Doing this kind of gut renovation of an existing building allows us to reuse and repurpose the bones of what we had and eliminate the backlog associated with this building.”

While there are still a few finishing touches being made, Upson Hall was completed by its target deadline and is open for business.

However, the construction in the Engineering Quad has not followed its intended timeline. This project fell under the jurisdiction of the Infrastructure, Properties and Planning Department and the goal was to address the underground infrastructure.

“The infrastructure project took longer than we expected,” Mulrooney said. “We were hoping it would have been completed before students got back to campus, and that wasn’t the case, but it is all completed now.”

Other Construction

In another part of campus, the Ag Quad has also seen a large renovation.

“The purpose of this project is to replace aging utility infrastructure, some of which is over 100 years old, and to revitalize the landscape within the Ag Quad in the aftermath of several recent construction projects,” the Ag Quad project team previously said.

At the intersection of Collegetown and the main Cornell campus, the Schwartz Center Plaza was redesigned to allow for a more open gathering space.

“This project is expected to yield a lively new gathering space that serves as a catalyst for an enhanced pedestrian boulevard along College Avenue, the primary pedestrian gateway to the university,” according to the project description. “This project is conceived as a key node within a larger, future Collegetown public realm enhancement area.”

David Cutter ’85, campus landscape architect, previously told the Sun that this project was part of a larger effort to revitalize that area.

“This is really kind of a first step toward a lot of different improvements in that corridor between College Ave. down to Eddy Street and along the gorge there,” he said.

Additionally, the University recently installed three new solar farms that “will generate large amounts of electricity and help the campus achieve its carbon neutrality goals,” according to a press release.