Move over, Silicon Valley—Cornell Tech seeks to capitalize on New York’s thriving innovation economy with a coworking space on Roosevelt Island.
Think big! The first phase of Cornell Tech, set to reach completion next summer, includes the main academic hub known as the Bloomberg Center; a residential building for students and faculty; the Verizon Executive Ed Center; and The Bridge, a co-location space.
Roosevelt Island, which quietly sits on the East River between midtown Manhattan and Queens, has long felt adrift despite its “suburban” appeal and accessibility. That is about to change with the development of Cornell Tech, a joint venture between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology that seeks to transform the way we think about work—or rather, coworking— spaces in the digital era. The hunt for tenants is on, and while WeWork seeks to fill desks, Cornell Tech has a grander plan of making New York a hotbed of innovation.
The design of the campus is the direct result of its aspirations. On a larger and more integrated scale than contemporaries like MIT’s renowned Building 20, Cornell Tech seeks to create points of collision where students and industry professionals can spontaneously meet in opportune ways. This culture is best epitomized by The Bridge, a co-location space being developed and managed by Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Companies. The Bridge “will take the commercialization of academia to a whole new level,” says MaryAnne Gilmartin, the company’s CEO.
The Bridge will house a mix of academic spaces, tech startups, and established companies, complete with views of the Queens skyline.
Unlike most commercial developments, The Bridge doesn’t have pre-leased anchor tenants other than Cornell Tech, and is therefore being designed in a “speculative way,” explains Gilmartin. “Rather than filling the space before building it, we are working from the ground up and harnessing what makes New York distinct in the innovation economy, so that we can [nurture those qualities] within this single structure.” Cornell Tech will lease approximately one-third of the 200,000-square-foot building, while a mix of startups and more established companies—carefully curated, of course, by both Forest City Ratner and the university—will occupy the rest of it.
“This is an opportunity for us to really handpick the best of the best,” adds Gilmartin. “We’re in no rush, and we’re willing to scour the earth, in a way.” According to Gilmartin, New York isn’t interested in being the new Silicon Valley, and The Bridge isn’t concerned with its balance sheet. “The selected tenants won’t be defined by the amount of space that they occupy, the credit they bring, or even the rent that they pay, but how they use this space to incubate new ways of thinking.” Forest City Ratner Companies, 1 MetroTech Center North, Brooklyn, 718-923-8400