Once the workplace of hundreds of leather craftsmen, shoemakers and box builders, a 90,000-square-foot former Endicott Johnson Corp. shoe and carton factory at 48 Corliss Ave. in Johnson City, N.Y., stands empty.
Not for long.
Binghamton University intends to renovate the building and move the Decker School of Nursing to the site, located on the 8-acre property where the University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is being constructed. These two schools will anchor the Health Sciences and Technology Innovation Park.
The move will give the nursing school additional space, enabling the expansion of programs and providing much-needed room to meet growing simulation demands.
“[Academic B] was our new building in the early 1990s, and we quickly outgrew it,” says Pamela Stewart Fahs, MS ’85, Decker School of Nursing interim dean. “Moving will give us an opportunity to grow and to have more efficient space for all of the innovative types of educational experiences we give our students.”
Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, says the square footage being allocated to the nursing school “will be sufficient to meet Decker’s current space needs, while also ensuring enough space for the foreseeable future.”
More real estate isn’t the only benefit.
Fahs and Gloria Meredith, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, say the proximity of the schools will have a tremendous effect on the University’s ability to provide interprofessional educational opportunities to students.
“The Institute of Medicine points very clearly to the fact that we have to work in healthcare teams to improve the quality of care. One way we can train students to work in teams is to provide them with lots of interactions within the classroom,” Meredith says.
This interprofessional education will extend beyond the classroom into clinical settings, joint simulations and service-learning experiences. Students from other disciplines will also be involved, especially social-work students from the College of Community and Public Affairs.
Both deans say that locating the schools together will make it easier for faculty researchers to team up. In addition, building the park a few minutes’ drive from both UHS Wilson Medical Center and Lourdes Hospital will pave the way for greater educational, clinical and research collaborations among healthcare professionals and Binghamton faculty, staff and students.
“Having the health sciences campus close to the two major hospital systems is an enormous benefit,” Meredith says.
Patti Reuther ’96, MS ’08, coordinator of the Decker School’s Innovative Simulation and Practice Center, sees the potential for Binghamton’s expanded simulation facilities to be used by hospitals, healthcare providers and others. She says collaborations of this nature “are taking place across the country as organizations increasingly turn to simulation to train personnel due to concerns for patient safety.”
The Health Sciences and Technology Innovation Park also will provide room for healthcare-based, high-tech businesses, offering additional opportunities for relationships with partners focused on research, education and training. Initiatives being discussed focus on biopharmaceuticals, regenerative medicine and biomanufacturing (see sidebar, below).
Nieman says space will be available within the renovated building for some of these projects, while others may find a home elsewhere in the park.
“There is land available for companies to come in to the park and build facilities,” says Bahgat Sammakia, vice president for research. “Those facilities could be research and development, or manufacturing. That’s a big part of this initiative, bringing in industry and having them collaborate closely with pharmacy and nursing. That would uplift the whole area.”
The University anticipates that the opening of the pharmacy school and the relocation of the nursing school will have a positive economic impact on Johnson City. Meredith believes healthcare will also benefit.
—Gerald Putman ’76, MBA ’84, executive director, Dr. G. Clifford and Florence B. Decker Foundation
“Think of how tremendous it is going to be for the local community to have all these healthcare professionals on the same campus overseeing service to the community,” she says. “Think how we can improve the health of the community.”
Binghamton University also plans to open a geriatric health center on Jennison Avenue, close to the health sciences park. Funded by a donation, the clinic will deliver healthcare assessments for geriatric patients as well as provide education and community services (see article
on p. 17).
“We’ve seen what the presence of the Binghamton University Downtown Center [home to the College of Community and Public Affairs] has done for downtown Binghamton, and I think you’re going to see the same thing in Johnson City,” Nieman says.
A steering committee for the development of the park and a planning committee for the move of the nursing school have been established and are moving the projects forward. Both include Decker personnel, along with physical facilities, information technology and research division staff, as well as representatives from UHS and the community.
“We have already had some input into the amount of space we need and the type of spaces we need for nursing,” Fahs says.
The Decker School of Nursing is expected to relocate to the park in 2019, a year after the pharmacy school opens at the site.
Fahs says that the students most affected by the move will be juniors, seniors and graduate students, who are typically off campus performing clinical assignments. Freshman and sophomore nursing students will be less affected since they spend the majority of their time on the Vestal campus completing general education and prerequisite requirements. All faculty, staff and classes within the Health and Wellness Studies Department, which became part of the Decker School in 2011, will remain on the Vestal campus.
The development of the health sciences park was outlined in the Southern Tier region’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) plan, a competition that is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s strategy to jump-start the upstate economy. The Southern Tier, along with the Central New York and Finger Lakes regions, was announced as a URI winner in December 2015. Each winning region is receiving $500 million to help attract new investments and create new jobs.
Funding to transform the former factory into the new home of the nursing school is expected to come from this URI award. Binghamton’s pharmacy school was not part of the URI proposal; it is funded by a SUNY 2020 investment from New York state. ■
Along with Binghamton University’s nursing and pharmacy schools, a few other initiatives may one day call the Health Sciences and Technology Innovation Park home.