Plans for Cornell NYC Tech’s office, retail space taking shape

Officials seek complimentary tenants for 300,000 square feet of commercial space at the Roosevelt Island campus
By Guelda Voien | November 30, 2012 03:30PM

The Cornell NYC applied sciences campus will boast 300,00 square feet of commercial space—including offices, a hotel and a conference center. Executives involved with the project said last night they are seeking tenants from the fields of technology, venture capital and intellectual property law, among others.

The 2 million-square-foot campus, a collaboration between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is slated to transform both Roosevelt Island and New York City’s technology sector as it rises over the next 35 years. The first phase of construction should be completed by 2017.

The event, where executives involved with the project discussed its implications for commercial real estate on Roosevelt Island, was presented by corporate real estate network CoreNet Global’s New York chapter, which hosts monthly summits on topics of interest to the corporate real estate community.

The first phase of construction for the campus includes four buildings, including three to be developed by third parties. Several weeks ago, project officials sent out requests for proposals to find developers for the three towers, as well as a master developer. Cornell plans to select a master developer by next spring.

The first building, a “loft-like” corporate collocation tower boasting 200,000 square feet of space, will offer 150,000 feet to technology firms, said Karen Backus, president at Backus & Associates, a consultancy working with Cornell on the new campus.

“We are looking at a wide variety of private tenants,” for the building, Backus said, underscoring that the project has a strong “focus on commercialization,” and hopes to foster collaboration between the private and public sectors within its walls. Tenants in consideration include venture capital firms and intellectual property attorneys, she said.

This tower will also be “net-zero,” noted Kyu-Jung Whang, Cornell’s vice president of facilities, meaning it will only use energy generated on site, including solar, geothermal and tidal energy.

The second building will include a 210-room hotel, a 40,000-square-foot conference center, as well as a restaurant, bar and other retail, Backus said.

The third building will be a 250,000-square-foot residential complex.

Whang said construction plans have not changed drastically in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because Cornell had already taken a fairly conservative approach, with all entrances planned for 19 feet above sea level.

“We believe global warming is real. It’s going to get worse and worse,” he said. The university may now require entrances to be slightly higher, he said.

He added that Cornell will have to build some sort of temporary barge to get construction materials to the island, but that there were no plans in the works to increase transportation infrastructure for individuals in anticipation of the campus.

For now, the primary focus remains on moving patients at the island’s Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital, which will need to be demolished before the campus can be built, to another facility.

“This is going to transform New York City,” Whang said.