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Vol.25, No. 19 Apr. 7, 2000

Continuing Ed and Special Programs Opens High-Tech Downtown Facility

By Abigail Beshkin

Columbia has partnered with a start-up high-tech company in a real estate arrangement that has enabled the University to lease high-tech Class A space in a high-rent Wall Street district for one-half to one-third of what it would have paid without this partnership.

The site at 100 William Street opened recently, bringing Columbia's Continuing Education and Special Programs' popular Computer Technology Applications (CTA) and the Advanced Information Technology Management (AITM) programs to the financial district, where most of the program's students have day jobs.

With a creative arrangement, Columbia Continuing Education was able to lease 10,700 square feet from Eureka Broadband Corporation. Because many of CTA's students work in law firms or banking and brokerage houses, Columbia Continuing Education needed space exactly when Eureka didn't—evenings and weekends.

"Eureka had something we needed—space in the Wall Street area to help us accommodate the growth in our programs, and a building wired with the most high-tech, state-of-the-art Broadband Internet connections presently available," said Paul M. McNeil, associate dean of Continuing Education and Special Programs.

McNeil said Columbia was able to offer Eureka a commitment to provide two upfront payments of $300,000 each—one this month, one in July—to defray building costs, which overall totaled $1.3 million. In return, Eureka CEO Bob Vanech agreed to lease the space to Continuing Education and Special Programs for an annual fee of $198,450 for the next five years, and $221,973 for the five years after that.

With the upfront building costs amortized over the next 10 years, the rent for the next five years works out to only $22 a square foot each month, and includes everything from electricity costs to computer maintenance.

The space will be designed to meet the needs of both institutions. With convertible walls, classroom space may be expanded into a large reception area for 150 people. Digital overhead projectors in the conference rooms allow for corporate as well as teaching presentations. There is a "cyber cafe" lined with high stools and a curved wooden table, under which will be installed ethernet connections so that students can work on assignments or check e-mail between work and class.

Two classrooms each are filled with 25 flat-screen computers with Pentium III processors, and every computer is wired with premium Internet Protocol (IP) based lines that offer superfast T3 access. In a few months, Eureka Broadband also plans to link all the computers in each classroom with a single touchpad, so an instructor can display the contents of each student's computer on a large screen. The classrooms also have six-foot projector screens and state-of-the-art LCD projectors.

"The facility could never have been established on the money we had to spend, but this is just an example of how Columbia is able to do more with less. At the core, this story is about a partnership between two people who trusted each other, who were trying to build a vision of education and entrepreneurship. Each had something to offer the other," said McNeil.