Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fountains Mark New Entry To The University of Albany

Local officials came together Tuesday for the dedication of a new $4 million Grand Entry Plaza into the University of Albany's uptown campus off Washington Avenue.

The walk-through fountain, which was built using state funding, is located along Collins Circle and will join the campus' other fountains which are used during the school's annual Fountain Day tradition, officials said.

"The new plaza provides a welcoming first impression to prospective students, our campus community, alumni, and other university visitors," said Interim President George Philip. "It will become a unifying presence and gathering place for the entire campus."

Tuesday's event opened with a short concert by the school's a cappella group called the Earth Tones which sang the University at Albany's fight song. Local officials attending the event included Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, Assemblymen Jack McEneny and Tim Gordon.

The state representatives announced a $5 million provision included in the state budget which is earmarked for future improvement projects at UAlbany. This funding will be added to the money the university already received for such revitalization projects in 2006 which totaled $25 million.

"The beauty of this new entry way is very fitting as it will serve as the gateway to this fantastic university," said Canestrari. "It's very exciting to see all of the wonderful improvements that continue to be made across this campus that serves as the academic home to thousands of New Yorkers."

The plaza, including two identical groupings of fountains and a stone walkway, is part of a new three-acre plaza. It has expanded green space, ornamental trees and bench seating with wireless Internet.

The park was designed by internationally-renowned landscape architectural firm Thomas Balsley Associates of New York City which has created similar structures in Dallas, Detroit, and Baltimore. They have built about 100 parks and plazas in New York City alone.

"The celebratory space was conceived as a design bridge between the modernist Podium and Collins Circle, while enhancing 21st century campus life with elements that foster daily activity," said Thomas Balsley, one of the project's primary architects. "We are delighted to have contributed to this first great leap forward in campus place making. We wanted to humanize this into an entrance plaza to make it a vital social center."

Balsley said he hopes to create more green space on the campus where parking lots and roads currently are located.

McEneny said, "I look forward to coming back and seeing more done. This is an outstanding facility at the heart of the university's undergraduate school which serves 11,000 students.

The event, which attracted students and faculty onlookers, was also a way to welcome the students to campus for the new academic year.

Gordon said, "Any money spent on education is money well spent. There are scores of legislators who went through the SUNY system, including myself. I'm just happy to help give back."

The officials said the $5 million earmarked for the school was not part of the recent cuts.

Tom Killips — The Record.
Danielle Sanzone may be reached at 270-1292 or by email at

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