With $100 million project, Pace University consolidates Westchester presence

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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Pace University will complete construction this fall on a $100 million renovation of its Pleasantville campus, designed to consolidate its Westchester presence and provide the university with a more residential feel.

Construction started in 2013 on the project, funded by $98 million in tax-exempt municipal bonds from the Westchester Local Development Corp.

When Pace finishes the three-year construction process and welcomes students to campus in the fall, it will do so with a larger student body living on campus and more programs, many of which were transferred from the school’s Briarcliff Manor campus at 235 Elm Road.

“The main goal of the master plan was to consolidate programs at the Briarcliff campus and bring them over to the Pleasantville campus,” said Aisha Moyla, director of administration and communications at Pace.

That means 750 bed spaces were created with two new, four-story residence halls on the campus on Bedford Road in Pleasantville. The 125,000-square-foot Alumni Hall, the first new residence hall, opened in September 2015. The other new dorm, the 96,000-square-foot Elm Hall, will open this fall.

The new residence halls feature 24-hour security, multiple study lounges and classroom space and semi-private bathrooms. Alumni Hall even has a small Starbucks kiosk location.

The new space has allowed the school to move 565 students from its 37-acre Briarcliff campus to Pleasantville. The Briarcliff campus was put up for sale, along with Pace’s Lubin Graduate Center in White Plains. A sale for Briarcliff is pending and the White Plains campus sold in April.

The number of students living on campus total has increased by 150, according to Lisa Bardill Moscaritolo, associate vice president and dean for students at Pace. That puts the amount of residential students on campus at about 1,350 for the fall semester

“We were seeing more students wanting to be on campus, especially first- year students, so the percentage has increased,” Bardill Moscaritolo said.

Bardill Moscaritolo has been with Pace for 10 years. She said she has seen students with perceptions of the university as being a Monday-through-Friday school, meaning geared more toward commuter students than those looking to live on campus. While she said that wasn’t accurate, she understood where the perception was coming from.

“But I do think we have changed that,” she said. “There’s more programs, run by students and staff, so there’s more vibrancy now and more people on campus.”

A big part of that was consolidating the campuses. Surveys administered by the school found that students on both campuses preferred to be together at one location.

“You had this community here and the Briarcliff community there, and the students were having good experiences, but it wasn’t a larger experience together,” Bardill Moscaritolo said.

The consolidation also means far less shuttle trips for students between the two campuses. Several students living on the Briarcliff campus previously had to take buses to classes in Pleasantville.

But in all the construction, the university also had to consider whether the costs would be too high. Bardill Moscaritolo said it was important to the administration to ensure that the changes wouldn’t raise tuition. She added that they weren’t interested in getting involved in the so-called college amenities arms race, where universities around the country attempt to outdo each other with luxury offerings.

“We didn’t want to have spaces that we couldn’t fill because students couldn’t afford them,” Bardill Moscaritolo said. “We wanted to be practical and ask students what was important to them.”

The project officially wraps up in September with a ribbon cutting for the new Elm Hall.

The construction also included changes to academic and athletic facilities, including:

STUDENT CENTER

A 9,500-square-foot addition at the Kessel Student Center added 200 seats for dining and upgraded the center’s kitchen. The project was completed in January 2015.

The renovation added space for student programs and clubs, including an office for student government.

The student center now acts as a middle ground between the academic and residential areas of campus, Bardill Moscaritolo said.

Around the center, parking lots have been replaced with walking paths to make the campus more pedestrian friendly.

“We’ve seen a lot more students walking,” Bardill Moscaritolo said. “We’d like to keep it that way.”

ATHLETICS

A new 14,000-square-foot field house for the athletic campus, funded by a $2 million donation from Joseph Ianniello, the COO of CBS Corp., an alumnus and a member of Pace’s board of trustees.

The school added bleachers to seat 1,000 and resurfaced its track and football field. Pace also constructed a new softball field and resurfaced the baseball and field hockey field.

ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Pace’s Environmental Center moved to another side of campus and opened in September 2015. The center features a new storage room and classroom, all powered by solar panels and geothermal heating.

The school has applied for LEED certification for the environmental center, along with the two new residence halls, Moyla said.

There’s also a new outdoor teaching pavilion and animal shelters, including birds of prey, goats, pigs and turkeys, as well as a nature trail.

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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