Contact: Lauren Marshall For immediate release

(212) 854-6595 May 14, 1999

lm420@columbia.edu

 

 

Guide Links Columbia, Morningside Heights

In Mutual Mission: Preserving a Neighborhood

 

As the face of Columbia University continues to evolve, a recently published conceptual guide ųColumbia University in Morningside Heights: A Framework for Planning ų provides direction for current and future projects. The publication re-connects the University with its heritage as an integral part of the Morningside Heights community and New York City at large.

As educational institutions grow in order to provide quality, state-of-the-art facilities for students, they are often looked upon with suspicion by surrounding neighboring communities, which perceive them as dominating the shape of the neighborhood or worse, cleaning out the neighborhood culture that exists. Many universities face this town versus gown phenomenon which stems from a community‚s mistrust of institutional motives in the development of campuses and properties, often purely based on a lack of communication.

The Framework for Planning, which was developed to guide Columbia‚s increase in planning and development activity in conjunction with its $664 million, five-year capital construction campaign, opens those lines of communication. The 300-page work includes in-depth examination of both the Columbia University campus and Morningside Heights with information on Columbia‚s history, campus preservation, development, landscape and lighting; and the history of Morningside Heights, a neighborhood analysis including over 30 streets and avenues, a review of buildings types and reccomendations for their preservation, as well as site recommendations for potential neighborhood development. From Morningside Park to Riverside Park and from West 106th Street to West 130th Street, the study encompasses the heart of Morningside Heights and the core of the Columbia campus.

Commissioned by the Office of the Executive Vice President for Administration, the Framework for Planning --the culmination of over two years of collaboration--represents a variety of voices, including historians, preservationists, architects, urban designers, and University and community leaders. Beyer Blinder Belle, an architecture, preservation, and planning firm; Higgins & Quasebarth, consultants in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic properties; Thomas Balsley Associates, a landscape architect, urban designer, and site planning firm; Lynden B. Miller, public garden designer; Howard Brandston, lighting designer, as well as architectural historian Andrew Dolkart were among consultants responsible for the in-depth studies of the neighborhood and campus. Members of the consulting team and University administrators regularly convened with a specially-appointed Working Group, including members of the Morningside Heights community, to establish a foundation for intelligent, creative and sensitive decision-making regarding all aspects of the built and natural environments that Columbia is responsible for in Morningside Heights.

„The purpose of the framework is to assist Columbia in understanding all the elements that define Morningside Heights,š said Emily Lloyd, executive vice president for administration for Columbia University. „An in-depth knowledge of a neighborhood‚s history, its attributes and weaknesses can help to maintain a community‚s vitality as it continues to change. The Framework for Planning serves as a link between the University and the community and will advise us on what we can do to preserve and enhance the Morningside Heights unique character as the University develops in the years to come.š

More than one hundred years ago, when New York City had barely reached the Upper West Side, Columbia College‚s President Seth Low empowered the prestigious architectural firm McKim, Mead & White to realize his vision of a classical campus connected to the city. Columbia was laid out to respect the city‚s grid system as it rose above it. Today, Columbia hopes to continue this legacy by bringing a sense of unity and high aesthetic standards back to the university environment--both on and off campus. To this end, the Framework for Planning provides a clear conceptual guide for the University‚s some 165 properties located in Morningside Heights and addresses the impact of the evolving Columbia campus on the community.

„The report is designed to be a framework for decision-making, articulating goals and concerns, describing contexts and outlining general guidelines for future development,š said Wendy Feuer, consultant to Columbia‚s Planning Framework and Landscape Master Plan Project. „But details such as outdoor seating and tables, trash receptacles, paving brick and plant materials have been clearly specified.š Considered a work in progress, the document will be updated and revised as the report recommendations are tested. Plans are underway to use it as a manual for training Columbia Facilities‚ staff.

„Many campuses are doing planning studies as spaces become tighter and real estate becomes more expensive, š said Lloyd. „But, Columbia may be unique in its effort to create an open planning process by including a Working Group of representatives from residential associations and other concerned voices from the community.š

Copies of Columbia University in Morningside Heights: A Framework for Planning will be available to the public through the New York Public Library‚s Columbia Branch (510 & 514 West 113th Street), Morningside Area Alliance (90 Morningside Drive and on the Columbia campus at the Avery Architectural Library, Butler Library and the Columbiana Archives and the University Senate Offices in Low Library. Community members requiring further information in should contact Project Director, Wendy Feuer at 854-8764.

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