It was mere months ago that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg put out a call to top research universities across the U.S. to bid for the rights to build a brand-new high-tech campus that would rival Silicon Valley to the west.
Today, that race will end. Bloomberg is expected to announce that Cornell University, buoyed by an unprecedented $350 million gift, will best local favorites Columbia and New York universities in addition to Carnegie Mellon and Stanford. (Update: It’s now official.)
Until the gift changed the nature of the competition, Cornell and Stanford were seen as the front-runners. (Stanford pulled out of the running on Friday.) The winner benefits from land earmarked for the venture on Roosevelt Island, which sits between Manhattan and Queens in the East River, as well as more than $100 million in infrastructure improvements promised by the city.
Cornell proposed a $2 billion, 2.1 million-sq.-ft. campus built to accommodate 2,000 students. The project — designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill — includes classrooms, laboratories, housing and other facilities, as well as efficient touches like solar and geothermal energy.
The campus will take decades to construct, but Cornell has promised to begin classes as early as next September. In many ways, the campus is an extension of Cornell’s existing presence in the city; it has a large medical campus across the river, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
But the real question is whether New York (or any other global city) can simply fabricate what has grown organically in California’s Bay Area. If they build it, will anyone come?