Master Expansion Plan Set Into Action

City Planning Commission Certifies Fordham’s Master Plan


Published: December 11, 2008

Fordham’s “Master Plan” for expansion was certified by the City Planning Commission on Nov. 17, and the school has begun the seven-month-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process, according to Brian J. Byrne, vice president of Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC). The plan aims to make the University more aesthetically pleasing and to provide facilities to accomodate an increased number of students.

The university held an informational presentation to the local Community Board on Nov. 19 in the 12th floor lounge, addressing a standing-room-only audience. The project is aimed for completion by 2032.

The number of students who enroll at FCLC has steadily increased in recent years.

“This past year, the Admission Office received a record number of applications, exceeding 23,000 for the first time,” said Patricia Peek, associate director of admissions. She continued, “At this time, the university has the capacity to grow the enrollment.”

Concerns about space, however, are well understood by campus administration and those involved in the expansion project.

“Conditions are extremely tight,” said Donald Clinton of Cooper Robertson and Partners architecture and planning, who presented the visuals at the presentation. “This is a project we have been working on for a long time,” Clinton said. He said the campus has been “eclipsed by growth” and that there is a “significant need” for additional space, as the campus was initially built to suit about 3,500 students and now serves over 8,000, with an estimated future population of over 10,000.

“A lot of what we’re proposing to do right now in the early stages of the Plan is to play catch-up,” Byrne said. “Clearly we’re a very crowded campus, and we want to improve overall facilities. Space is our final frontier. There are so many things we can’t provide, not because we don’t want to but because we don’t have the space to put them.”

The plan is to maximize the space on the FCLC grounds while still keeping the campus bound to the super block between 60th and 62nd Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

The Master Plan expansion project will begin with a new building for the Law School that includes a dormitory. This first building in the Plan has been designed by the “internationally recognized” architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, LLP, to be “distinctive, yet respectful to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts,” according to Byrne. Clinton called the new Law School a “placeholder design,” something that will be a focal point of the new look of the campus. Byrne said the construction of this building would give the Lincoln Center campus both academic and residential space at the same time, with nine stories of academic space and an additional 13 stories rising from the center of the Law School to serve as a dormitory. This dorm, says Byrne, will be set up much like O’Hare Hall on the Rose Hill campus, with single and double rooms attached by semi-private bathrooms. As reported by The Observer, the school plans to use this space primarily for freshmen students.  Fordham plans to include more lounge space in this residence hall to “foster a sense of community.”

The Law School, which is the oldest building on the campus, “will ultimately go away,” Clinton said. “Fordham will keep [the existing Law School] building during the course of several decades of construction as a building for swing space” and will move some of the professional schools into that building until they have space of their own.

Later stages of the project include beautifying the existing structures of the Lincoln Center campus. Clinton called the long concrete wall along 60th Street “something that we have tried to address in the plan and make changes to” and explained that large windows would ultimately be cut into the wall, exposing dance and rehearsal spaces—something he called an “interesting” use of space.

Clinton said Quinn Library, “which is today entirely under [the Plaza], would gain some ground for space above [ground].” Luke Villapaz, FCLC ’11, is one of many students who is happy with this decision. He called the library’s current configuration “cavernous,” comparing it to “the temporary bat cave in ‘The Dark Knight.’”

Clinton said that the Leon Lowenstein building, at the end of the expansion, would be the “seat of Fordham college,” catering exclusively to undergraduate needs. Additional facilities that will be added to the campus include a new school of business, two buildings for education and social service and more student center space, as well as a large parking garage for faculty and staff. WFUV, Fordham’s radio station, will also move to the Lincoln Center campus, and the art gallery and University bookstore will find a new home, joined by a public café that will be open to the street on 62nd.

Byrne calls the new campus configuration a “more congenial environment to live and learn,” and Clinton explained the plans to build additional public access points so that the quadrangle can “serve as an amenity to the campus and for the neighborhood.” He expressed a desire to make the campus as accessible as possible to the public. “We want to have public spaces where the university community and the non-university community intermingle and exchange,” Byrne said.

The Lincoln Center campus got its start as a central location for 24 undergraduate programs and three graduate schools, which were housed at various locations throughout Manhattan until the Leon Lowenstein building went up in the late 1960s. The university has owned most of the superblock that the campus now sits on since 1957. The land was purchased as part of what Byrne called the “Lincoln Square Urban Renewal Plan.”

Byrne said of the expansion plans, “We’re going to use property we own; we’re not seeking to take over other neighborhoods, but to develop the property we have further.”

“The Plan has evolved as a result of those conversations with the community board,” Clinton said in his presentation, available on the Community Board’s Web site, which outlined the existing conditions of the campus, as well as amendments made to the original Plan. The Plan also accounts for two additional residential buildings on the two corners of Amsterdam Avenue, one on the north corner and one where the water main construction is currently wrapping up. This land is being sold off to try to deflect some of the costs from being passed on to students in the way of increased tuition, according to Byrne. Leaving the land along Amsterdam Avenue as the designated non-University property is all part of the plan to “preserve the outward look” of the campus to Columbus Avenue and Midtown Manhattan, Byrne said.

The plan, in two phases to be completed in 2014 and 2032 respectively, should begin to be implemented in the near future, but according to Byrne, will likely not affect any current undergraduate students, who “will graduate just as it begins to open and more space becomes available.” He said that the first building alone, the combined Law School and dormitory “will take close to three years just to build.” The plan involves adding an additional 2.2 million square feet of useable academic and residential space to the existing nearly 800,000 and should comfortably house an influx of new students in the decades to come. The plan will be implemented over a 25-year time frame to stagger construction and keep the campus as a livable and workable environment, according to Byrne. “If you tried to do two or three of these [construction projects] at one time, the campus would be totally disrupted and dysfunctional.”

One of the factors prohibiting construction in the immediate future is the water main construction going on outside of McMahon Hall on 60th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. After 14 years, the project should be coming to a close in the next few months, Byrne stated.

Byrne said that he anticipates construction of the new law school and residence hall will begin in the fall of 2009, and the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University, has told students that the day the final permits are approved, he will be at the construction site with a hard hat and a shovel.