Through an atypical semester where COVID-19 placed many aspects of campus on hold, Cornell continued its major North Campus construction.
After overcoming obstacles, such as New York State’s month-long ban on non-essential construction instituted in April, Cornell’s North Campus Residential Expansion is back on schedule — while also accommodating for reduced construction while students take semi-finals and weather conditions worsen.
“We’ve been very pleased to see that despite the delays early this year from the pandemic-related halt in construction,” said Karen Brown, senior director for campus life marketing and communications “The contractors have been able to catch up and the project is on schedule.”
The NCRE will consist of five buildings clustered in two locations on North Campus that will provide 800 beds for sophomore students and 1,200 beds for first-years. The project is a key step in Cornell’s plan to ultimately require all first-year and sophomores to live in either dorms, Greek housing or in co-ops.
As students take semi-finals, the project has had to make adjustments to stay more quiet than usual. To try to reduce noise, the sites are engaging in construction work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., a modest reduction from the usual 7:30 a.m. start time. Contractors have also been instructed to limit the use of vehicles that are equipped with alarms to mitigate distractions for students studying and taking exams.
Despite attempts to minimize noise, some students said the work has still been distracting.
“I would say [the noise] sometimes interferes with my daily activities,” said Noah Ziluck ’24, whose ground-floor dorm in program house Just About Music directly faces the first-year construction project. “Even with noise cancelling headphones and closing the window, it can still be really loud, and the noise feels like it has escalated over time.”
As a result, Ziluck said that he rarely opens his window for more than a few minutes, and has to mute himself in Zoom classes to avoid picking up construction sounds. He said that unexpected loud noises have caused him to sometimes miss important details while in lecture.
The under-construction Sophomore Village is scheduled for occupancy next fall, while the First-Year Student Site is slated to be ready for use in fall 2022. Despite the unprecedented challenges of the past nine months, those involved in the project are optimistic that deadlines for both sites will be met.
“There’s always the possibility that COVID-19 concerns could force another construction pause, but we don’t expect that to happen,” Brown said. “Severe winter weather could also result in a loss of a day or two of work here or there, but we always have room in the schedule for such delays.”
Working hours will not be affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter months and construction will only be halted in “the harshest conditions,” according to Brown.
Brown also noted that as more progress is made, most of the work will be focused on the interiors, reducing the risk of weather delays.
Ziluck offered that, for next semester, more could be done to accommodate students’ schedules, even beyond semi-finals and finals week.
“It would be nice for Cornell to send out a survey over email to get an average estimated time of when students get up in the local area,” Ziluck said. “I’m not a construction expert, but I’d say understanding the average student’s schedule a bit more would certainly help.”
Next year, the Cornell Class of 2024 will be the first to reside in the newly-constructed buildings, which will be located on what was the CC Parking Lot adjacent to Robert Purcell Community Center on North Campus.
The Cornell Housing and Residential Life team is currently working on including space in the Sophomore Village in the room selection and housing application for the 2021-2022 residential year.
Furthermore, all individuals directly or indirectly tied to Cornell are invited to fill out a naming survey on the NCRE website by Nov. 23 to give input on possible alumni to name the new buildings after. Three of the five new residence halls have yet to be named, but President Martha Pollack announced on Oct. 9 that two of the buildings will be named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 and Toni Morrison M.A. ’55.