College and local officials gathered on the north side of the SUNY-Cobleskill campus Thursday to celebrate the start of a $38.7 million construction project expected to bring updated classroom and laboratory technology to the agriculture and technology college.
Seven outdated structures will be torn down to make way for the new Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources that will house the Plant Science, Fisheries, and Wildlife and Environmental Science departments.
College Officer in Charge Candace S. Vancko said there’s excitement around the college community about the new look and improved learning environment the new facility will bring to the campus.
“We can’t wait to see the finished product,” she said, thanking contractors, legislators and others who helped bring the plans to the point of construction.
The project represents the largest transformation on the college campus in 50 years, Vancko said.
“Thank you, this is a big deal and we’re excited,” she said.
The Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources is expected to cost a total of $45.5 million including design and equipment, and the 93,072-square-foot building will include several environmentally friendly features.
Green roofs on the first floor will not require irrigation, and restrooms will be fitted with low-flow fixtures.
A high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is part of plans as well as bicycle racks and shower facilities to encourage staff to bike to work.
It will include new cold- and warm-water fish hatcheries, greenhouses, meat processing and taxidermy facilities and serve roughly 30 percent of the college’s 2,500 students.
College spokesman Joel Smith said plans for student housing will bring an important element to the north side of the campus.
It wasn’t an easy task ensuring sufficient funding for the upgrades, state legislators said.
A few years ago, the college was in line for about $5 million in funding, but calls for upgrades were heard and about $50 million was appropriated instead, said State Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta.
“SUNY-Cobleskill is unique in that is one of the few colleges in the state with a working farm,” he said. That feature gives students a hands-on ability to learn proper environmental stewardship, he added.
State Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, said there’s often debate over appropriating funding for the SUNY universities and the SUNY colleges.
“There has always been a tug of war,” he said.
But the end result, he said, will be worth the investment.
“As graduates leave these doors, we want them to be the next entrepreneurs,” said Lopez, who is an alumnus of the college.
State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said SUNY-Cobleskill is playing an important role.
“This is part of our future,” he said before reading a letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo sending his congratulations.
The building project is expected to be finished in June 2014 and ready for use in the fall semester of 2014.