Passersby will soon see substantial progress at the site of Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion, where construction has begun on the above-ground steel deck that will form the ground floor of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center.
Construction of the deck started in the last two weeks of October. Workers have now finished building a slurry wall, a below-ground barrier that will keep water out of the foundation of the science center in the event of flooding.
The slurry wall had been the primary focus of construction since mid-2011. With the wall finished, “the site looks very different,” Executive Vice President of Facilities Joe Ienuso said.
“The steel has been fabricated and the curtain wall—what you’ll see on the outside of Jerome L. Greene—has been purchased,” Ienuso said. “We’ve bought the building.”
The science center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts will be built inside the perimeter of the slurry wall, which encircles two blocks between 125th and 129th Streets. The University plans to open both buildings in 2016, and although the design phase for the Lenfest building is not yet complete, Ienuso said he is “hoping that it will catch up” to the science center.
“President Bollinger would like to see that finished at the same time,” Ienuso said.
Greene and Lenfest, along with a new conference center, are the first three Manhattanville buildings that a pedestrian walking north from the Morningside campus will see.
The science center will be built, floor by floor, on top of the steel frame that now occupies much of the space. Construction workers will pour concrete into each shaft of steel this winter before placing a finished floor on top to form the ground floor of Greene.
Lenfest, once fully designed, will be built on top of the campus’ central energy plant, which will power on at least two years ahead of the opening of Greene and Lenfest. Equipment will be added to the energy plant on a project-by-project basis as the campus adds more buildings.
Despite the progress on the science and arts centers, other obstacles have prevented Columbia from expanding construction beyond the two-block radius. The second phase of the slurry wall, which will extend to the north and west and will protect the new homes of the Business School and the School of International and Public Affairs, cannot be completed until the University demolishes several buildings it was given through the eminent domain process.
According to Ienuso, those properties—two gas stations, as well as several warehouses owned by Tuck-It-Away Self Storage—will be conveyed to the University after the state condemns them.
“Once we have all the parcels, we’ll be working on a schedule of abatement and demolition,” Ienuso said. “That will advance the overall project.”
The conference center, which will lie one block south of Greene and Lenfest, is likely to be finished in 2017, although Ienuso said it would “be great to get that building complete” by 2016 as well. This trio of buildings was envisioned early on as “a constellation of programs that are completely complementary,” he said.
Even when they are finished, though, most of the expansion campus will still be a work in progress. Some parcels of land could remain empty for decades. Ienuso said that construction workers will put up fences to create “a fairly pleasant” dividing line between the unfinished spaces and the finished spaces, including green space next to the science center that will be open to the public.
Then, Ienuso said, “the campus will start to come to life.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, one reference to the academic conference center was mistakenly referred to as a convention center. Spectator regrets the error.