Philip Pitruzzello, vice president of development for the Manhattanville campus, explained the University’s vision to blend the future campus with its surrounding neighborhood through commercial partnerships and design principles in a talk with students Tuesday.
Pitruzzello, in a rare appearance in front of undergraduates, spent some time discussing the motivation behind and the progress on the Manhattanville campus. But he also stressed that the new academic buildings would allot considerable ground-floor space to commercial enterprises and that the campus, lacking gates like its Morningside counterpart, would be inviting and open to passersby.
The Jerome L. Greene Science Center, which will host laboratories for mind, brain, and behavior research, will boast roughly 20,000 square feet of commercial space, and buildings on the site along 12th Avenue and Broadway will make 70 percent of their ground-floor space available to businesses.
The decision was made as a result of zoning requirements mandating that Columbia devote sizeable portions of the ground floor to “active uses,” which Pitruzzello said could include anything from cafés to a University-owned bookstore that the public could access.
“It has to give the sense that if someone is walking through there, whether you’re part of the Columbia community or part of the neighborhood, that it feels very much like you’re on a city street,” said Pitruzzello, who noted that the University was still early in the process of finding potential tenants for the space.
The event, in Avery Hall’s Wood Auditorium, was organized by undergraduates of the Columbia University Real Estate Society.
In addition to promoting active use of the buildings’ ground floors, he said the University was working to create an open campus, without walls or gates, in order to fit in seamlessly with the surrounding city. All of the cross streets will remain open to traffic.
The University is also mindful of ensuring the construction of open spaces and linkages to the waterfront, the preservation of historic parts of the neighborhood, and the use of each building for a variety of academic purposes.
Despite one audience member’s concern for the safety of this arrangement, Pitruzzello said the design was crucial to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood. Organizations like Public Safety will help keep students safe, he noted, and the 26th Precinct of the New York City Police Department is just two blocks to the campus’s east.
“There was, very early, on a recognition that it was really essential to keep this an open and inviting area of West Harlem,” he said. “We’re very mindful of safety, but we don’t think that an open and inviting campus and safety are mutually exclusive.”
Pitruzzello also discussed air and noise pollution, recalling that the campus received a LEED Platinum rating in Neighborhood Development last year and also employs state-of-the-art air filters to deal with diesel pollution. In order to deal with noise from subways braking on the 125th Street viaduct, Pitruzzello said a double-curtain wall will be built around Jerome Greene to help dull the sound.
He added that the campus’s proximity to public transit, particularly the subway and bus lines, would make it more accessible and sustainable overall. The University will install more bike racks to facilitate an easier commute between campuses.
Although he said he did not foresee any major speed bumps for the project in the near future, Pitruzzello ended on a note of caution.
“All construction is serious, so I can’t even begin to tell you if we will face additional issues,” he said. “There is always something that comes up, and there is always a new challenge.”