Baruch transforms post office space into new student center
Space has always been limited for an urban commuter school like Baruch College. In November 2010, a process was launched to rectify this issue when the Undergraduate Student Government that year decided to try acquiring a new student center.
The 2010-2011 USG obtained 2,000 student signatures to bring a referendum to vote, and 1,200 students in the student population voted to increase the student activity fee, a part of every student’s tuition, by $20 in order to purchase the student center. A survey was then sent out to students asking them what they would like to see the space used for. Most students chose to have a space with minimal programming, one that can be used just to gather, study or do group work.
The project’s goal was to raise about $1 million every year, beginning during the Summer 2011 semester, until there was enough funding to start work on the student center. In 2017, a private donor gifted Baruch with enough money to finally begin.
Once the vote to increase the student activity fee was passed, the search for the ideal space began almost immediately. Katharine Cobb, the vice president of administration and finance at Baruch, said in an interview with The Ticker that when looking for a space to be the new student center, one of the main priorities was that it was close enough to Baruch so that it was included in the main campus.
Many places in Baruch’s neighborhood were assessed, but for a long time none were chosen. During the Fall 2014 semester, Cobb started negotiations with the United States Post Office Madison Square Station, which is located across the street from the Newman Vertical Campus, taking up the entire block on 24th Street from Lexington Avenue to Third Avenue. She correctly assumed that the post office would have a large amount of empty and unused space.
There were difficulties moving forward, however. The post office was not only hesitant to give up the space, but since it is run by the government, the college had to persuade several levels of authority.
Approval was needed by officials in Washington D.C., who managed the real estate of the post office.
Eventually, the proposal to use a portion of the post office for Baruch’s student center was accepted on all levels. The lease was signed in Fall 2017. The lease is good for 15 years and, at its end, there is an option to renew the contract for another 15 years.
The entrance to the student center will be located on 24th Street and Lexington Avenue, right across from the main steps leading into the NVC. Baruch will have access to about 5,700 square feet of space in the post office. The entrance will lead into a 1,000-square-foot space that will be the lobby, and will lead into the student center that is located beneath the post office.
The center will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and will have a ramp and elevators as well as stairs.
Currently, the space Baruch has leased is part of one large room that the post office uses for storage. Walls will be constructed to separate the student center from the rest of the post office’s operations.
Although the floor plans are subject to change, the present layout of the center consists of an office for the Office of Student Life, three meeting and club rooms that can also be used for group studying and an open lounge area with a large number of available seats. Student programing in the space is supposed to be minimal, explained Director of Student Life Damali Smith in an email, as the primary purpose of the space is to be a student lounge.
The space is approximated to fit at most 200 people at any given time.
Construction is planned to take about 18 months to complete, with doors opening to the Baruch population in Fall 2019.