College Avenue first closed for construction at the beginning of the semester, frustrating residents.

Michelle Zhiqing Yang / Sun Staff Photographer

College Avenue first closed for construction at the beginning of the semester, frustrating residents.

September 12, 2019

Campus Construction: What Buildings are Due for Facelifts this Year?

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When students filed back onto campus this August, they were met with several renovated spaces: The Cocktail Lounge is now fit for a party (or late-night study session) with new furniture and workspaces, and the glistening Rand Hall replaces brick with glass and soaring shelves.

Those may be some of the biggest changes to Cornell’s Ithaca campus this year, but they are far from the last. The University’s budget plan allocates over $235 million to campus revamps and renewals in the next fiscal year — giving a glimpse into what changes students will see around campus in the coming months.

The engineering quad’s Hollister Hall, built in 1957, will receive $260,000 of the University’s coin to revamp the building and add additional space for students hunkering down over engineering proofs and problem sets.

Also on Cornell’s docket: more mat space for its award-winning wrestling team. The University submitted plans to the Town of Ithaca (their Friedman Wrestling Center falls on town property) for a 1,500-square-foot expansion to the center, where Cornell’s national title-clinching squad throws down throughout the school year.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Hall — dictated in the report as the Computer and Information Science Building — will receive a modest million to increase “net space,” the budget plan says. Cornell’s award-winning computer science program, housed within the department, is ranked among the top five in the world and has grown in recent years.

And Baker Hall’s chemistry facilities require suitable facilities for its student researchers as well. This year, the department will be flush with $3.2 million to update its restroom facilities in both north and south buildings.

And on campus, Cornell’s funneling $2 million into Comstock Hall to update the laboratories housed within. Since 1985, the structure has played home to a colony of entomology majors.

Ten of Cornell’s recognized fraternities are housed in University-owned buildings — and those require maintenance as well. In fiscal year 2020, Cornell has earmarked $580,000 to address renovations to Delta Upsilon’s house on West Campus.

And Martha Van Rensellar Hall will get over $19 million to finish Phase III of its renewals.

And Cornell’s biggest expansion in years, the North Campus Expansion Project, kicks off this fiscal year with $57 million in groundbreaking work — laying the foundation for buildings that will allow the University to pull its scattered sophomore classes back onto campus and admit hundreds more new Cornellians each year.

The multi-year project, which promises to eventually house an additional 1,200 freshmen and 800 sophomores, is slated to be completed in 2022.

Occurring hand in hand with the massive expansion is a series of updates to North Campus’s existing residences, including Balch Hall. The female-only space will become a bit more open to all women, with a series of updates and Americans with Disabilities Act retrofits to bring new life to the old halls.

The ongoing battle to salvage McGraw Hall — Cornell’s third-ever campus building, constructed in a Gothic style in 1868 — will continue, with an allocated $4,894,000 out of a total $85 million to be spent on recovery and renovation work this year. Despite the revolving door of scaffolding and minor projects, McGraw Hall continues to host classes and departments like Cornell’s Knight Writing Center.

Though these are some of the larger projects Cornell will undertake this year, the University also has around $17 million for “programmatic projects” that are each under $2 million.