Our Work

A Long-Time Partnership for Long-Term Growth

Client
  • Columbia University
Client Type
  • Development Organizations
  • Higher Education
Location

New York, NY

Practice Areas
  • Vibrant Campuses

Columbia University

For 20 years, Columbia has entrusted U3 Advisors to support the university’s physical expansion as their real estate consultants and strategic advisors.

Since 1999, Columbia has trusted U3 as their on-call real estate advisors and strategic partners. We’ve guided, planned, and managed the University’s most significant development projects, including the construction of their Manhattanville campus, and the expansion of the Morningside Heights and Washington Heights campuses.

U3 supervised the acquisition and development of property for Columbia’s new 17-acre Manhattanville campus in West Harlem, which will accommodate the school’s growth for 50 years. This massive undertaking involved assembling 70 separate parcels, rezoning many of them, and then developing millions of square feet of academic space and infrastructure. Working in-house with Columbia as an “extension” of the University’s real estate department, U3 managed the project schedule, budget, and contracts for this massive undertaking while serving as a liaison between University stakeholders, consultants, both City and State agencies, and community groups who were concerned about the University’s expansion. With its first stage complete, the growing campus feels genuinely integrated into the fabric of the city. What was once a decaying post-industrial area has been transformed with new science and arts buildings that are providing students and locals with spaces for innovation and creativity.

Challenge

Help an Ivy League University expand their campus in one of the densest, most competitive real estate markets in the United States.

Solution

A unique working relationship that allows U3 to function as an extension of Columbia’s real estate department.

Impact

Securing the land and infrastructure to accommodate Columbia’s growth for the next 50 years and beyond.

In Morningside Heights, U3 led a multi-year competitive selection process for two development sites at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, culminating in the negotiation of a 150-year ground lease and more than 300,000 square feet of development capacity. U3 also helped Columbia reach an agreement with Union Theological Seminary to access new facilities and gain stewardship of the largest collection of religious books outside the Vatican.

U3 has worked extensively with the Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights, managing architects, consultants, and attorneys to prepare development options and a comprehensive phased plan for new research, education, and residential facilities. U3 also served as project manager and real estate advisor to the Medical Center in its efforts to complete the development of a one-million-square-foot research park in Washington Heights. We navigated complex bureaucracies to secure land use approvals, selected the developer, and helped Columbia plan a new academic building within the park. In 2016, U3 performed a comprehensive GIS-based demographic analysis of the neighborhood to evaluate the potential of a new student housing project. We identified patterns in student housing choices and collected data on household income, rent, transportation, crime, land use, existing retail environment, and other key factors.

As Columbia University continues to evolve, U3 will ensure they continue to stay competitive with other institutions, to foster innovation across all disciplines, and to better serve their community.