New science buildings on way at Union, Skidmore

Goal of major projects is to consolidate programs
Union College President Stephen Ainlay speaks in front of the new science and engineering complex.
Union College President Stephen Ainlay speaks in front of the new science and engineering complex.

Two of the region’s private colleges made progress this month on construction projects aimed at transforming their science programs.

Union and Skidmore colleges are each moving forward with multi-million dollar plans to consolidate their science departments into dedicated buildings, with updated classrooms and laboratories.

Union this week celebrated the “topping off” of its new science and engineering complex, the imposing curved steel frame of which has risen in the space between Bailey, Butterfield and Steinmetz halls. The topping off marks the installation of the final piece of the building’s frame.

Once complete, the new building will connect a handful of campus buildings and will house a variety of science and engineering disciplines.

“It more broadly is an affirmation of what Union does so well, which is that the STEM fields are integrated with the rest of the campus, the humanities, the social sciences, the arts,” Union President Stephen Ainlay said. “We see this building as representing Union’s core identity.”

While high winds this week delayed placement of the structure’s final steel beam, school officials gathered outside the construction site Wednesday to recognize the milestone. The $100 million project marks the end of a 10-year effort led by Ainlay to update buildings across the campus.

“None is as important for the future of the institution as the one we are about to embark on,” said Frank Messa, a Union College trustee. “We’ve always thought that one of our competitive advantages compared with other colleges is our ability to integrate the arts with the sciences and engineering.”


The Union project, which was announced in March, appears to be progressing more quickly than a similar effort at Skidmore, announced in 2014, that has yet to break ground. The Saratoga Springs college recently said it plans to begin construction of its own updated science complex as early as May.

Skidmore earned preliminary approval for $35 million in financing for the complex through the Saratoga County Capital Resource Corp., which assists non-profits with big capital projects. The college is planning to put up another $32.5 million in gifts and other college funds to support the $67.5 million project, the first phase of a larger plan that could exceed $100 million in cost.

The college’s planned Center for Integrated Sciences — an expansion and renovation of the Dana Science Center — will ultimately include north- and east-wing additions and a full renovation of the Dana Center, according to Skidmore’s website. The new science center will bring science departments — now spread across the campus — into a single location and dramatically update learning and research facilities.

The work starting in May will focus on the north wing, according to the college’s financing application. Around 60,000 square feet of new classroom, lab and office space will be added there, and the college expects the facility to be compete by September 2020.

“We are so fortunate to have an institution like Skidmore College in the county,” said Ray O’Conor, CEO of the Capital Resource Corp. “It’s not only an exceptionally sound institution for higher learning, but the economic value of the jobs and the better educated workforce.”

The construction project spelled out in the application is estimated to create around 125 construction jobs.

The Dana Center will remain in use while construction of the new north wing progresses, Skidmore spokeswoman Diane O’Connor said in an email response to questions.

The Skidmore project is awaiting further approvals from county legislators and city officials.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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