News that Columbia has been in talks with Harlem local officials and other city politcos about acquiring 17 acres of land, from 125th Street to 133rd Street, between Broadway and 12th Avenue, to expand its campus interested Gothamist for many reasons. Not only is Columbia our alma mater, it is also one of the largest landowners in the city (the others are the Catholic Church and NYU), and therefore has a huge say in the dynamic of neighborhoods. The relationship between Columbia and Harlem has always been fractured, as Columbia has usually been less interested in getting involve with the community and more concerned with its own interests (example, the Morningside Park gym debacle in the late 1960s). But Columbia's campus is crowded, and could benefit from more buildings, like a new arts center and more dorms. Community officials, thus far, are cautiously optimistic.
The Times' Charles Bagli has a good overview of some of Columbia's various real estate purchases on the Upper Upper West Side, as well as this expansion plan. Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, says about buildings on the new piece of campus, "These would be beautiful, magnificent buildings on the order of what we have in Morningside Heights. Maybe not in mass, but in quality." Columbia's main campus was originally designed by McKim, Mead & White. Go up there for a tour or take the interactive tour.
Gothamist does think Columbia looks spectacular, even if its five year reunions blow.