The United Nations General Assembly (GA) has cleared the way for major rehabilitation of the UN campus to begin. In February 2008, the GA approved the $1.9 billion budget for the renovation project, which is planned to be completed by 2013. The groundbreaking for the renovations was held in May 2008.
The master planning process for renovations to the UN campus began in the 1990s. The goals of the renovation are to improve the safety and functionality of the 17 acres, 2.6 million square-foot campuses. Originally designed to serve 75 member countries and 700 conferences a year, the current campus serves 192 countries and is the site for roughly 8,000 meetings a year. In addition, the facility is not in compliance with modern fire and safety codes (though it is technically exempt from those codes) and has asbestos insulation throughout the building.
The renovation will not only address those problems but reconfigure the floor plates of the buildings to allow for a more flexible configuration of space. Energy-efficient design measures will also be incorporated into the building, approximating a LEED Silver rating. Finally, security enhancements will be made throughout the campus.
The original plan called for the rehab to be done in phases while more than 3,700 workers remained on campus. This would have left the UN looking for approximately 300,000 square feet of “swing space” for over 1,000 workers. The revised plan, however, calls for only 2,200 workers to remain on the campus, meaning that the UN will have to find even more temporary office space throughout the city.
The relocation of additional staff, however, allows the renovation to be completed by 2013 – 2 years sooner than originally planned. The relocation of workers was scheduled to start at the beginning of 2009.
The approval of this most recent plan is the latest step in what has been a long planning process. At one point, there were plans to build a tower to temporarily hold the UN’s workers on the Robert Moses playground, immediately south of the UN. Despite the contention that the playground was underused, the New York State Legislature refused to pass legislation to alienate the parkland.