DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — In 14 months, St. Francis College will be on the move again, from its longtime Remsen Street campus to a new, state-of-the-art location a half-mile away on Livingston Street, with a famous next-door neighbor — Macy’s department store.
The Tablet and Currents News were the first media outlets to get a behind-the-scenes look at the college’s new home — the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors of The Wheeler Building — which have been leased by St. Francis for the next 30 years.
This will be the third move in the college’s 162-year history, having been a small campus on Butler Street for 102 years and then a series of interconnected buildings on Remsen Street for more than 55 years. But, the latest move is part of the St. Francis College Forward initiative that “has been a long time in the making” according to St. Francis College President Dr. Miguel Martinez-Saenz.
“We looked at the possibility of remodeling, retrofitting the whole building [and] when we looked at the data, it was about a 20-year project,” Martinez-Saenz said in reference to the current Remsen Street campus. “Students would be in a construction zone for 20 years. So, that was the move when we decided we needed a location where we could fit out, purposefully, the learning environment and not interrupt the service for our students.”
“Some people say, ‘Are you sure you can be in [the new site] in the fall of 2022?’,” Martinez-Saenz said. “I say, ‘Absolutely, we will be moving in here no later than August 2022, and students will have their first class in September 2022 right here in The Wheeler Building.’ ”
He said the new campus will be totally modern, completely student-facing, and will allow for adaptation in years to come. Some of the highly anticipated features include FinTech labs, a multifunctional cafeteria space, a library stocked with 24,000 books, two art gallery spaces, and a private outdoor terrace and access to a roof deck offering views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan, and New York Harbor.
“We want the students to experience what they’re going to experience after they leave the college,” Martinez-Saenz said. “My hope is that students walk into this space and feel the energy, creativity, and innovation.”
St. Francis College will welcome more than 2,700 students this fall, including its largest first-year class ever. School officials anticipate that more than 3,500 students will be studying at the new campus by 2026.
Gabrielle Lora, who will begin attending classes in the new building at the start of her junior year as she pursues a bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education, said she’s optimistic about the change in scenery.
“Although this wonderful building feels like home already, I feel like sometimes you just need a new change,” Lora said as she stood outside the Remsen Street location after the new location announcement was made. “And that change can actually benefit the education of our future students.”
Along with the move, St. Francis College will also introduce a new slate of academic programs, specifically in disciplines designed to springboard students into jobs in growing career fields.
McCoy Frederick, a runner on the St. Francis College Terriers’ track and field team, plans to apply to the college’s new graduate program in Exercise and Sport Science. He says the addition of that new academic option will fit in perfectly with his current path as he majors in exercise and movement science and minors in personal training.
“Now that I see they’re coming out with that new master’s degree program, I’m happy to stay here,” said Frederick, who will be a senior this fall. “I’ve already seen the layout for the building and it looks really good, to be honest.”
Rising second-year graduate student and student ambassador AnnaMaria Leal will be an alumna by the time St. Francis College moves to Downtown Brooklyn. But she explained that she was part of a campus-wide survey, and answered questions about what she and the rest of the student body would like to see at St. Francis College in the future.
“We were talking about all the collaborative spaces we’d like, all of the kinds of educational spaces we would love to see going forward,” she said. “We didn’t know at the time, but what we were talking about was going to be in a new building.”
Leal continued, “It’s really exciting now to see that there’s going to be a whole new space for Terriers to come in, collaborate, make friends, and get the chance to take what we’ve all experienced over the last several generations as Terriers and bring it to a new location with a new movement and new dream for all of us.”