Who knew a request for proposal to build a tech campus would offer such edge-of-your-seat drama? Late Sunday night, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Bloomberg, and the New York Times all put out stories saying that Cornell won the bid to build a tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Mayor Bloomberg will reportedly make the announcement Monday.
This latest development caps a tumultuous 72 hours in the year-long process of trying to build an engineering mecca that would transform New York into the next Silicon Valley. On Friday afternoon, Stanford–widely thought to be a front-runner and openly courted by Mayor Bloomberg–abruptly announced that it was dropping out of the race. Hours later, Cornell announced an anonymous $350 million donation towards its applied sciences campus proposal.
Lisa Lapin, a spokesperson for Stanford University told Betabeat that negotiations between Stanford and the city had been active even as of Friday morning. “It’s been a negotiation process that’s lasted almost three weeks,” said Ms. Lapin. “I know that there have been many conversations at the highest level of the city.”
Both Cornell and Stanford selected Roosevelt Island as the location for their proposal. According to the Post, Cornell was willing to invest more to pay for the toxic cleanup required at the site on Roosevelt Island where the Smallpox Hospital once stood. (After being abandoned in the 1950’s, the structure fell into disrepair.) Over the weekend, the paper reported that Stanford refused to cover the cost of a remediation bill without a cap on the amount.
New York City Economic Development Corporation president Seth Pinsky has repeatedly said that the amount of money the bidder requests from the city is a factor in the committee’s decision and that asking for less could improve a proposal’s chances. A decision on the winning bid wasn’t expected until January. Mayor Bloomberg, who has taken a particular shine to the tech sector recently, reportedly views the campus as way to redeem his legacy after a fraught third term in office.
As for whether the anonymous donation means Cornell will have a Joan and Sanford I. Weill Engineering Center to go with its Joan and Sanford I. Weill Education Center (after all, Sandy Weill, the former Citigroup CEO and Big Red alum, just came into $88 million for charity), Cornell would only say, “We’re not commenting!” The Daily News reports that Mayor Bloomberg is set to make his announcement at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan.
Neither the Mayor’s office nor the EDC have returned requests for comment, but we will keep you updated as we learn more.