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St. Francis College, Franciscan mainstay since 1859, to move to new Downtown Brooklyn campus

May 21, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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St. Francis College recently announced its plan to move from its longtime campus on Remsen Street to the Wheeler Building at 181 Livingston St. in Downtown Brooklyn, a new 10-story addition to a historic Art Deco building containing Macy’s department store.

St. Francis College’s relocation is the foundation of the 162-year-old private Franciscan institution’s transformative new initiative, SFC Forward, which it undertook in early 2021. The new campus will open its doors to students in September 2022.

“We are excited about SFC Forward and our relocation,” said Denis J. Salamone ’75, Chair of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees. “This initiative will make us more competitive and ensure future generations of Terriers receive life-changing academic and student experiences affording them increased social mobility.”

Along with the move, St. Francis College is introducing a new slate of academic programs, specifically in disciplines that springboard students into jobs in growing career fields, and is expanding opportunities for remote and online learning. 

“For more than 160 years, St. Francis College has demonstrated a commitment to providing an unmatched private education in the heart of New York City,” said Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D., president of St. Francis College. “This is a historic moment to completely re-envision our campus and meet the needs of our community, and we are thrilled to continue offering a first-rate, affordable education in a modern, flexible and welcoming learning space.”

An outdoor view of the St. Francis College’s new home, with the college’s logo prominently displayed. Rendering courtesy of St. Francis College

The  college welcomed more than 2,700 students in fall 2020, including its largest first-year class ever. It anticipates more than 3,500 enrolled students by 2026.

The facilities in The Wheeler were designed with input from faculty, staff, students and alumni to prioritize collaboration and community. They feature:

– A dedicated, marked entrance on Livingston Street and lobby welcoming students and faculty to St. Francis College
– Flexible labs and classrooms with built-in technology that accommodate a range of teaching styles and class structures
– A 300-seat auditorium
– A 260-seat cafeteria with servery and kitchen
– A 32-seat tiered screening room
– A 6,600-square-foot library with study and research spaces
– A private outdoor terrace and access to a roof deck with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan and New York Harbor
– Two art gallery spaces
– Gathering spaces for students to work together, study and relax.

St. Francis College’s new campus will occupy about 255,000 square feet across the fifth, sixth and seventh floors at 181 Livingston St. and will include more than 2,600 square feet of programmable outdoor space.

St. Francis College’s athletics program—with its 21 Division I teams—will continue without interruption and are a part of SFC Forward’s vision. While the new campus does not include a gym or pool on site, the College is developing partnerships with nearby institutions to share indoor spaces for practice sessions and competitions. 

St. Francis College will continue to use various off-site playing fields and other spaces for its outdoor sports.

“I congratulate St. Francis College on its new home in Downtown Brooklyn. For years, SFC has provided topnotch educational opportunities to students from Brooklyn and beyond, helping to set them up for a lifetime of success,” said Borough President Eric Adams.

“St. Francis College has propelled social mobility and created an excellent academic environment for students seeking to take advantage of all the opportunities New York City has to offer for more than 160 years. I am excited for all that is in store for the college and its future students at their new campus in Brooklyn,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“As we look toward a robust recovery from the darkest days of the pandemic, we are pleased to welcome St. Francis College to their new campus in downtown Brooklyn, where they will continue to change students’ lives and foster critical thinking and commitment to community,” said Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

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  1. asymptotic

    Division I basketball without a gym? Great way to attract athletic prospects. What was wrong with the Remsen Street buildings? Input from alumni? Maybe some selected alumni, but I know several long-time contributors who were blind-sided by this planned move and are very unhappy. Is there a fiscal crisis at the college? Seems like a down-market move without an explained motivation. Is SFC going to become just another University of Phoenix? People who have been donating for decades deserve to hear about this from the school, not online news sources. The usually active SFC alumni outreach operation has been suspiciously silent about this. What, exactly, is going on? Perhaps the paper could get beyond the press release and find out.

    • Andrew Porter

      There’s also speculation on some other sites about what will happen to the old buildings. One site suggests a supertall apartment tower could be erected in their place, though that seems unlikely to me.

  2. Jerry Hannon

    This is a really puzzling move. As a member of the last class that had a semester at Baltic Street (Frank Macchiarola’s class was the last one to spend all of its time at Baltic Street), and our remaining time spent at the then-brand-new campus at 180 Remsen Street, that early 60’s real estate transaction always seemed like a smart move by the Trustees of our college and a good way to impress future students with the more firmly assured future for the college. Over the years great things have been done, particularly during Frank’s time as President of the college, including adding college-owned and on-site athletic facilities that my classmates could only have dreamed about and learning spaces that dwarfed our “repurposed Brooklyn Union Gas ” spaces. Now the Trustees are abandoning the Remsen Street facility, which the articles about this note are larger than the space they would occupy on Livingston Street, and then renting their space in that new building. Renting? Good grief, Sherlock, this sounds more like Kaiser University or some other fly-by-night “college” than the institution which I came to know and love. I have also not read anything about what will happen to the friary of the Franciscan Brothers, whether they will remain in some part of the Remsen Street facilities, or move into some rented apartment space on Livingston Street. This is definitely an example of terrible communication with the Alumni, as well as leaving more holes in the story to generate needless speculation.

  3. Jerry Hannon

    Has The Brooklyn Eagle done any behind the scenes investigation since this announced? So much remains unanswered, and so much that has been written/quoted seems contrived and a rather “circle up the wagons” comments by Amen Charlies.