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Syracuse University’s NVRC will serve as center of education, resources for veterans

Delaney Kuric | Head Illustrator

The National Veterans Resource Complex construction is scheduled to be done by the late spring or early summer 2019.

When members of the Syracuse University community walk down South Crouse Avenue they see Hoople, a squat brick building with covered up windows. It will soon be demolished and replaced with the National Veterans Resource Complex — a modernly designed structure created by the same architecture firm in the running to work on the Obama Presidential Center.

The NVRC is the signature building that will lead off and set the tone for SU’s Campus Framework, said Ron Novack, executive director of veteran and military affairs.

It will serve as a national center of education and resources for the advancement of veterans and their families. The building is one of the near-term projects outlined in the Syracuse University Campus Framework.

The NVRC was identified as a priority early on because it represents an important point of intersection between the Academic Strategic Plan and the Campus Framework, said Pete Sala, vice president and chief campus facilities officer, in an email. It will be the first facility of its kind in the United States.

“It’s really about carrying on that solemn promise we make to veterans,” said Tim Drumm, executive director of special initiatives. “… They have a place when they come back. They have a place in higher education, we welcome them home.”

Pending weather, the construction will be done over a two-year period. Construction will begin sometime in the spring and is proposed to be complete by the late spring or early summer 2019, Novack said. Drumm added that, with the demolition of old buildings, there are a lot of unknowns that could alter the timeline of construction, and Syracuse weather may also contribute to setbacks in the schedule.

Drumm said there is interest in funding the NVRC. The plans for the building were set in motion in December 2015 after central New York’s proposal, “Central New York: Rising from the Ground Up,” was awarded $500 million as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. According to the CNY Regional Economic Development Council’s application, $12.5 million would be invested in the NVRC.

As of now, the NVRC will be funded through the state and external sources, such as donors. The building is estimated to cost around $62.5 million, Drumm said, but the amount will not be concrete until the design is finished.

“This vision and this building is going to propel us for the next 40 or 50 years,” Novack said. “… You don’t make a large financial commitment to a building like this and walk away from it.”

The building will go where the Hoople Building is currently located, on the corner of Waverly Avenue and South Crouse Avenue. The demolition of Hoople will happen in late October or early November, before the snow starts coming in, Novack said.

Drumm said he hopes the building will aid in bridging the gap in transitioning from service member to veteran status to civilian status.

The NVRC will bring together, under one roof, existing university programs. The building will serve as a permanent home for veteran programs including the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, the Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and the Student Veteran Resource Center.

“You have all these pockets of military programs that are going to be brought under one roof,” Novack said.

SHoP Architects, the architect for the NVRC, is a New York City-based firm that is currently among seven finalists in the running to design the Obama Presidential Center. Novack said the university wanted a high-caliber architect because it will set the tone on many levels for the Campus Framework.

SU recently hired Daniel MacDonald, a veteran and owner of MacDonald Engineering, as the first employee to work on the NVRC site. There will be continued efforts to hire veterans to work on the project, Novack said.

“What better way, what would be more fitting than to have veteran owned businesses come in and be a part of the construction of the National Veterans Resource Complex?” Novack said. “That is certainly a priority.”

The building will be about 100,000 square feet and will house five classrooms, a 1,000-seat auditorium, a cafe, a gallery, a research center and a banquet hall that turns into a lounge/study area, Novack said.

Drumm said the NVRC is designed to be in compliance with ADA. There will be minimal stairs and elevators and ramps throughout. He added that the building will have a flow that will make it simple for a person with a disability to get around.

“It not only meets the needs, it exceeds it,” Drumm said. “… If you’ve got a disability, this is going to feel like your home.”

It will not be a “behemoth” of a building, Novack said. Instead, the NVRC will be smaller than a lot of the surrounding buildings, including the School of Education.

The NVRC will be located at the corner of Waverly and South Crouse avenues.

The NVRC is an integration effort, Drumm said. It is a university asset and a university building that is not just dedicated to veterans but also the traditional university demographic, Drumm said. He hopes it will welcome in students who may be unfamiliar with the veteran community because, he said, there is value and learning opportunities coming from both sides.

“When you meld those two things together, I think it makes a much stronger university,” Drumm said. “One university.”

The NVRC building will be a public space. Floors zero, one and two will be public access while floors three and four will be mostly office space, Novack said.

Drumm and Novack see the complex as a way to give back. They envision public figures using the complex space for their own projects, whether it be the auditorium for when a speaker comes in or a veteran artist looking to showcase their work.

They also said the NVRC will serve as a way to give back to support the local economy. The complex will directly create jobs, the programs housed within it will spark entrepreneurial startups and the hard-dollar impact will be felt when conventions or other events are held and people put their money into expenses including hotels, flights and dining, they said.

“When you come home, you’ve got a place here,” Drumm said.

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