When campus reopened for hybrid learning in the Fall 2021 semester, students, faculty, and staff returned to a transformed space: three major renovation projects had been completed since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, including the lobby and elevators of the Lawrence and Eris Field Building (known to scores of alumni as “17 Lex”), the opening of the Allen G. and Mary E. Aaronson Student Center, and Clivner=Field Plaza on 25th Street.
“This is a landmark moment in the history of Baruch,” said President S. David Wu at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the Clivner=Field Plaza in October. “It represents the future and audacity of Baruch College. Ours is an institution that is willing to dream big, work hard, meet challenges head-on, and go the extra mile to create transformative change.”
But the campus enhancements are much more than just cosmetic. Learn about each of these completed projects and see how all three are game changers for the student experience.
Extreme Makeover: 17 Lex Edition
Alumni will likely do a double take when they see the new lobby of the Field Building at 17 Lexington Avenue, often considered the historic hub and sentimental heart of Baruch College.
The construction project represents the first significant renovation of the building since it opened its doors in 1929 as the City College of New York (the building sits on the original site of the 1847 Free Academy, a precursor to CUNY).
Among the sleek new lobby’s features: large, open windows letting in natural light from Lexington Avenue; card-swiping turnstiles at the entryway with an enhanced security desk; an accessibility ramp; and upgraded electrical capacity that allows all six modernized elevators to run seamlessly at all times.
Construction began in 2017, and this completed phase represents only the first part of a multiphase project that aims to ultimately make the building sustainable, with a LEED Silver designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.
For Jim Kaznosky, director of environmental health and safety in Baruch’s Office of Campus Facilities and Operations, the completed project represents a major achievement for the College—and a major upgrade for students and faculty.
“Completing a construction project of this size was difficult, as the building was occupied during this time,” he says. “The addition of these higher-speed elevators has proven to be very beneficial to the College community.”
For generations of Baruch alumni, this renovation will come as a welcome—and breathtaking—sight. At one point in Baruch’s history, virtually every activity, academic and extracurricular, took place under the Field Building’s roof, so nearly all of Baruch’s graduates have fond recollections of the building—and maybe a not-so-fond memory or two of being stuck in an elevator while rushing to class.
A Hub for Student Life
Further enhancing the student experience is the new Allen G. and Mary E. Aaronson Student Center, which opened its doors for the start of the Fall 2021 semester. The facility, just shy of 5,000 square feet in size, is located in leased space in the U.S. Post Office’s historic building on 23rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. Students access the Aaronson Center on the south side of 24th Street, across from the main Newman Vertical Campus entrance.
The new student center was made possible by a generous gift from the late Allen G. Aaronson (’48) and his wife, Mary. As an active student with leadership roles on the Interclub Board and Student Council, the alumnus was determined to support student life. The new space offers a wide range of mixed-use seating, as well as three private breakout rooms.
“The Student Center will serve as a student lounge and is a space designed with student comfort in mind,” says Damali Tolson, Baruch’s director of Student Life. She says that student engagement has grown tremendously on campus during her years working at the College, and she is excited and hopeful that the new space will deliver an additional area for students to make connections.
“We have found ways to provide engagement opportunities for all students, even those with limited time to commit,” she adds. “This space will be open to all students and give them an opportunity to connect with each other and truly build community.”
New Directions for Growth
Perhaps the most eye-catching and transformative renovation was the completion of the Clivner=Field Plaza at 25th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, which provides a much-needed open green space for the enjoyment of Baruch’s campus community, neighbors, and all New Yorkers.
At its ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony in October, government leaders, CUNY officials, and donors celebrated the project’s completion—nearly a decade after it was first proposed—and hailed it as an ideal example of a public-private partnership.
“Creating a campus at Baruch seemed like a great idea—a dream—but it hadn’t been done in 100 years!” said Daniel Clivner (’85), after whom the plaza is named along with the late Lawrence N. Field (’52, LHD-Hon. ’04).
“More than the street itself,” Clivner continued, “it represents for me living proof that with the support and inspiration of others—and the lessons being learned in the surrounding buildings—you too can turn great ideas into reality.”
The Clivner=Field Plaza is a game changer for the Baruch campus, providing a public green space in a neighborhood with one of the lowest percentages of pedestrian space in the city. It includes nearly 180 square yards of planting comprising 15 newly planted trees. It is also designed to function as a connective space and hub for student life, with 21 new benches, 15 free-standing granite seats, and 583 feet of granite seat walls and steps.
In addition, the plaza features 1,442 engraved pavers purchased to help fund the project. “We are so grateful to the many trustees, alumni, and friends who supported this project, through their generous gifts and purchase of pavers and benches,” says Baruch College Fund (BCF) President Helen J. Mills. Led by the BCF, the alumni and donor community ultimately raised $3.3 million for the plaza.
“I am ecstatic to honor the vision of my late father to ensure that Baruch College students will always enjoy the opportunity to achieve their dreams and aspirations,” says Lisa Field, one of Lawrence Field’s daughters. “He would be so pleased knowing that Baruch, the college that gives so much to so many, has been gifted something it never had in its entire history…a place for students to commune, study, and socialize in the fresh air.”
As Clivner concluded his remarks at the dedication ceremony, he marveled at how the new space will add a new dimension, literally, to the student experience. “Today, and for the next 100 years,” he said, “we have a horizontal campus to match our vertical campus.”
—Gregory M. Leporati