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[IMGCAP(1)]NEW YORK CITY-Some of the city’s biggest landlords and developers are its learning institutions. Among them, Columbia University and New York University–both involved in major expansion plans here–have been hotly debated in their respective communities. Philip Pitruzzello, VP for Manhattanville Capital Construction with Columbia University ,and Lynne Brown, SVP for University Relations and Public Affairs at NYU, provided the Association of Real Estate Women’s luncheon attendees Tuesday with the status of their six-million-sf projects as well as a better understanding of how institutions look at finding new space.

“It takes a lot of observation,” Brown explained. “Planning expansions for institutions takes a long time. It’s not about doing a deal and then getting out.”

[IMGCAP(2)]Pitruzzello echoed Brown’s views, adding that university buys are not about a “build and flip,” they take time. “Universities love their real estate. Columbia has been around 250 years and expects to be there for another 250 years.” He continued that the Manhattanville in West Harlem project has been five years in the making. “There is something very fundamental about the needs to expand,” he said. “It’s long-term, well-planned and far reaching.”

Pitruzzello explained that “when planning long term, it’s usually not the first plan that gets used. Plans must be flexible since they will be there over a long period of time.”

Brown noted that choosing where to expand, at least for NYU’s 2031 plan, must be cohesive. “If you are going to place space somewhere, it has to make sense. There isn’t one answer as to where to place the square footage, but you must think of it as a spectrum.” Brown said that NYU’s plan looks at three main locations for its additional six million gross sf of academic and housing space it needs over the next 25 years. “We are looking at the core campus in the Washington Square Park/Union Square/East Village area where we already have about 10.8 million sf out of 15 million sf. We are then looking at the surrounding neighborhood between First and Eighth avenues and from Canal to 18th Street. The final place we are looking includes remote locations.”

Brown said that there are three remote locations already on the school’s radar, which include: Downtown Brooklyn, where NYU is pending a merger with Polytechnic University; Govenor’s Island; and the far east of the city where the school’s health corridor is located. She continued that by spring 2008, there should be a strategic plan in place, which should “engage the NYU community and the external community as well.”

Columbia’s Manhattanville in West Harlem project is a little further along than NYU’s plan. The New York City Council approved the university’s rezoning plan by a wide margin in December. The 17-acre site that the university will develop is just north of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus and consists primarily of the four large blocks from 129th to 133rd streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue, including the north side of 125th Street, as well as three properties on the east side of Broadway from 131st to 134th streets. The plan includes more than 6.8 million sf for teaching, research, underground parking, and support services, according to Pitruzzello. It features new facilities for civic, cultural, recreational, and commercial activity. And its improved, pedestrian-friendly streets and new publicly accessible open spaces will reconnect West Harlem to the new Hudson River waterfront park now under construction.

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