Union College plans $38M rehab

Union College officials announced Friday they will use up to $38 million in bonds to repair building

Union College officials announced Friday they will use up to $38 million in bonds to repair buildings on the campus and begin a major renovation of the Social Sciences building.

Approximately $30 million will be used on buildings whose maintenance has been deferred for years because of the economy, said college spokesman Phillip Wajda.

Repairs will include electrical and mechanical upgrades, roof work and energy efficient measures, and will take between eight and 10 years to complete, Wajda said. “We have a lot of buildings on campus. The work could touch almost every one of them.” The college will use the remaining $8 million as a cash-flow bridge for gifts pledged toward projects on the campus, Wajda said. One such project is an upgrade to the 43-year-old Social Sciences building.

The building will be refitted with classrooms employing state-of-the-art technology, helping support its role as a hub for interdisciplinary programs on campus, Wajda said. It houses classrooms and faculty offices for the departments of anthropology, economics, sociology, political science and history.

A gift from Jim Lippman, Union College class of 1979, and his wife, Linda, is helping to get the project started. The building will be renamed Lippman Hall in honor of Lippman’s father, Robert G. Lippman, Union College Class of 1950.

Renovations are expected to begin in January and be completed before the end of the year.

Wajda said the college’s announcement is noteworthy in that it is using the Capital Resource Corporation to enter the bond market and that it is paying a $380,000 administrative fee to the corporation for its services.

The Schenectady County Legislature created the corporation in July specifically to support “civic facility” projects like Union College’s, said Ray Gillen, commissioner of economic development and planning for the county. The corporation’s board met Friday for the first time since its creation to approve the Union College project.

Wajda said the college chose the corporation because of its local ties. “The key thing for us is we chose the CRC as the preferred vehicle to get access to the bond market. We did that because the fee will go back into community,” he said.

The Schenectady County IDA, which administers the corporation, will invest the $380,000 fee in local economic development projects, Gillen said. Nonprofits are responsible for bond debt they obtain through the corporation, he said.

The college could have gone through the state Dormitory Authority to obtain the bonds and paid that agency the administrative fee, Wajda said. “When we became aware of the CRC and the ability to put the money back into the community, we did that.”

Gillen said the county created the corporation after industrial development agencies in the state lost the ability to issue tax-exempt bonds to nonprofit organizations. The IDAs lost this ability in 2008 when a provision in the General Municipal Law expired and the state Legislature chose not to renew it.

The city IDA, for example, supported one of the last civic projects to be done in the state before the law expired: the Union Graduate College construction project, Gillen said. The $8.5 million building was financed with bonds and $3 million in fundraising. The college received a variety of federal and state grants it will use to help pay back the bond.

Categories: Schenectady County

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