ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s rather hard to miss as one passes through Collegetown, or peers into it from the neighboring hills. A large steel box, wrapped in white plastic as interior construction work continues during through the cold winter months.

The Breazzano Family Center for Business Education, located at 209-215 Dryden Road, is a fairly unique contribution to the Collegetown building boom that began almost three years ago. For one, instead of residential units with ground-floor retail, it’s office and academic space; for two, Cornell undergrads won’t be its occupants. In fact, most days, the primary tenants will be university office staff.

Image property of Cornell University
Image property of Cornell University

The new six-story, 76,200 square-foot building is the result of a collaboration between Cornell University, and local developers John Novarr and Philip Proujansky. Cornell will be the sole occupant during its 50-year lease, but the building will remain on the tax rolls. It might seem odd that Cornell would seek an off-campus, tax-paying space when there are plenty of opportunities for development on campus. But according to Jeremy Thomas, Cornell’s Senior Director of Real Estate, the positives of the Collegetown location outweigh the negatives.

“There are benefits and factors to the city that were motivating factors to being in Collegetown, especially given its proximity to the Johnson School and Law School. Some of the benefits are the economic impacts, supporting its revitalization…we own very little land in Collegetown, our ability to have an impact is somewhat limited, and leases like this and for {409 College Avenue’s} EHub are one way that we can increase our presence and have an impact on its development.”

The center will house Cornell’s Executive MBA program, with the lower three floors being classroom and meeting space, and the upper three floors providing office space for staff and support functions. An MBA, or Master’s of Business Administration, is a graduate degree designed for those seeking advancement in the business world (CEOs, Directors, vice-presidents and the like). Executive MBAs are structured different from traditional MBAs in that student still work while attending classes on the weekends.

The Breazzano name comes as part of a $25 million donation from Cornell MBA alum David Breazzano ’80, and is named in honor of him and his three sons, all recent Johnson School graduates. According to the Cornell Chronicle, the donation will “substantially support” the building’s construction, which construction loans on file with the county have pegged at $15.9 million.


For Elizabeth “Beta” Mannix, the associate dean in charge of the Executive MBA program, the building represents the surge in interest that the Executive MBA program has drawn in the past 15 years. “[W]e looked around and said, where do we have space we can build, and where can they mix and mingle with other MBA students? We want them to interact with other college of business students, that’s the future they recognize, when we think about what Cornell really is. Collegetown is right there, an extension of Cornell’s campus.”

According to Mannix, Cornell’s off-campus MBA programs launched with the Metro NY program in 1999. That program had 30 students at its inception; it now has 140. The Executive MBA Americas Program, which commenced in 2005 and utilizes video conferencing and meeting spaces in 11 North American cities, enrolls 320 students. A new MBA in healthcare management program is expected to launch in 2017, with the long-term plan of enrolling another 70 students in New York City.

“[W]e would like to have our students come to the Cornell main campus as much as they can. We have several 1-2 week residential sessions where we try to bring them up to Cornell campus, and these are working professionals, 37, 38 years old on average, but they feel that commitment to Cornell as strong or stronger than the typical undergrad or MBA.”

“Since we’ve moved into Sage Hall, we’ve been almost too big for it, and we’re growing at a rapid pace. We wanted to be able to have our students up at campus at the same time as other MBA students were around, but there hasn’t been enough classroom and breakout space, so we bring them up on break – the next res {residential} week is January 8th, when it’s quiet on campus. They also come up in June and July, it’s the only time we have space for them.”

Image property of Cornell University
Image property of Cornell University

At its opening in May 2017, the building will only be about 70% occupied, bringing about 420 students and staff into Collegetown. The plan is to steadily fill out the rest of the building as needed, ultimately raising the occupancy to a maximum of 600. During its planning board review process, the Breazzano Center was one of the rare projects to make it through without major opposition. Mannix ties that to people’s understanding of the project’s goals, and intended users.

“These MBAs are working professionals, they’re not undergrad students. I’ve been here 15 or 16 years, Collegetown is revitalizing, and there are businesses changing, but it’s a refreshing of the environment, a refreshing of Collegetown, an opportunity for people and businesses will see, these students will shop and eat here. It’s sort of like the Commons, people were a little skeptical at first, now they’re excited. I think we’re seeing that in Collegetown, as it transforms a bit, it will be utilized more and be more vibrant. ”

20161209_155004 breazzano collegetown

So, what does the future hold? More off-campus MBA students visiting Ithaca? More Cornell collaborations on development projects like the Breazzano Center and Maplewood Park?

“We take it on a project-by-project basis,” said Thomas. “As we look at different projects, we want to be open to considering all options, what works best for the university and what works best for the community. We decided in this case and with Maplewood that the best approach was to partner with a third party. We decide based on if it’s the right location and right project, do a careful analysis on a case by case basis.”

Meanwhile, Mannix expressed high hopes for the future of the Executive MBA programs. She expects growth to continue in the healthcare field, and the Americas program may expand to Europe and Asia as challenges such as time zone differences are overcome. She further believes the Metro NY program will develop a strong relationship with another growing Cornell program in New York, the Tech school on Roosevelt Island.

“The key will be to utilize our space on Roosevelt Island effectively. It’ll be interesting to see the interaction between the Cornell Tech students and MBA program, what will happen and how it will shift, perhaps more towards innovation. We do it a bit now, but in the future it might happen more naturally, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at