Columbia University plans to open new campus next spring

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University on Monday dedicated one of the most ambitious architectural projects in the academic world: the $6.3 billion expansion of its campus.

A ceremony was staged in front of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, the first to be completed on the 17-acre Manhattan campus, which is expanding into West Harlem. It marked Columbia's visible victory in its court battles for the land over several years.

New York's highest court ruled in 2010 that the state could seize some of the property under eminent domain after its chief economic development agency, the Empire State Development Corp., deemed the area blighted. The university bought the rest of the parcels from private owners.

Italian architect Renzo Piano, of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, designed the master plan for the entire acreage with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

"This is exactly the day I wanted for today: sunny, breezy, fresh, crisp," Renzo told the assembled faculty and other officials. "Fresh air, that's what we need."

The center, a 450,000-square-foot, nine-floor edifice featuring exposed steel beams, replaces a defunct industrial site. It will be fully functional by next spring.

Among other research laboratories, it will house the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, named after the publisher. In addition, a community wellness center and education programs will link the Ivy League building with Harlem residents.

Surrounding landscaping is still in the works, and Columbia promised it would be "woven into the existing street grid with no walls or gates," unlike the university's historic main campus, just south of the expansion site.

The Manhattanville Campus, named after the neighborhood's original name, sits between the elevated No. 1 subway train tracks and the Hudson River.

Also opening by spring as part of the Manhattanville Campus is the Lenfest Center for the Arts. After that will come the University Forum and Academic Conference Center, to open in 2018, and the new home of Columbia's business school, in 2021.

The remaining buildings are to rise in the next two decades, to be planned based on academic needs.

The Manhattanville plans have won the U.S. Green Building Council's highest distinction for sustainability and have been praised for helping neighborhood development.

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