The University at Albany is looking to expand its footprint in a big way, breaking ground Tuesday on a research and academic center on the Harriman state campus.
University and state officials kicked off construction Tuesday at a 12-acre parcel on the southwest corner of the Harriman campus, a few minutes walk to the heart of the UAlbany campus. Officials are planning to complete construction in time for university staff to move into the facility in summer 2021 and open to students that fall.
Outfitted with research labs, collaborative spaces, map rooms and a weather observation center and space for business startups, the 245,000-square-foot center is slated to be the university’s largest building.
“This will help ensure UAlbany’s place as a world-class research institute for years to come,” UAlbany President Havídan Rodríguez said at the ground breaking ceremony.
The Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex, as it is called, will bring together two programs seen as key to the university’s future: the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity and the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.
The researchers and scientists who study and predict severe weather will be working under the same roof as the emergency responders who deal with weather crises and manage rescue and recovery efforts.
“They figure out how to get us the best data possible,” said Robert Griffin, dean of the College of Emergency Preparedness. “We figure out how to make that data usable.”
It works the other way as well. By working more directly with emergency response experts, scientists and forecasters in the atmospheric sciences can better understand how the information they develop can best be presented and used.
“Understanding how emergency managers make decisions, that is really important to how we develop our weather products that help aid them,” said Everette Joseph, director of the UAlbany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center.
The $180 million project, which was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016, has been funded as part of recent state budgets, said John Giarrusso, UAlbany's associate vice president for finance.
The center also will host the New York State Mesonet project, a weather observation network that stretches across the state. UAlbany has invited the Albany unit of the National Weather Service to make its future home there. The federal agency is expected to make a decision in the coming years. The building will be a short walk from the main campus and will fall under UAlbany jurisdiction.
UAlbany officials said the center will serve as a “front door” to industry and businesses interested in working with the school to help strengthen their own weather and emergency resiliency, as well as a hub for generating new business ideas.
Once complete, the center will house as many as 200 full-time faculty and researchers, 100 research staff members and more than 800 students.