Footsteps echoed in the cavernous spaces of the former Broome County Library, the stacks and counters long gone, the walls and ceilings stripped to bare concrete and plaster. The twin fireplaces remain, along with a floor edged with a Greek key mosaic.
With its historic charms will remain, that first floor space is slowly becoming state-of-the-art classroom and lounge space, while a new addition under construction in the rear will house garde manger and production kitchens. When it’s all done, the new SUNY Broome Culinary Arts and Events Center also will feature amenities including a fabrication lab for the Events Management program, a fully equipped beverage lab for mixology classes, a full-dining room, a computer lab, a state-of-the-art lecture hall for cooking demonstrations, office space and a proposed community education cooking studio.
“This is really going to be a gem for the college,” said Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, a SUNY Broome alumnus who joined Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm at the site on Sept. 21.
Heastie announced that the Assembly will recommend an additional $1.5 million in funding to see the project through to completion. That is on top of $5.5 million from the Regional Economic Development Council, $4 million from SUNY, $4.8 million in New Market and Historic Tax Credits and $3 million from Broome County, along with a $1 million college match. Approximately $10.7 million of the $19.8 million project cost goes toward the construction and renovation of the historic building, which has been vacant for nearly 20 years.
“We really love our old historic buildings. They really give this community the atmosphere it has,” said Assemblywoman Lupardo, noting that the building – once home to the Broome County Library — was funded by famed industrialist Andrew Carnegie and constructed in 1904. (The cornerstone was laid in 1903).
President Drumm expressed gratitude to the community partners who are critical to the project’s success. The project not only preserves a beautiful historical building from further vacancy and degradation, but it also represents history of another sort: returning SUNY Broome to downtown Binghamton, where it began 70 years ago as a State Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences.
At the time, the college was housed in the former Armory on Washington Street – only a few blocks away from the Carnegie site – until that building burned down in a dramatic Labor Day fire, prompting the college’s move to county property on Upper Front Street in 1956.
The Culinary Arts and Events Center will house SUNY Broome’s future Culinary Arts program – currently pending approval by the SUNY system – as well as other Hospitality programs, such as Event Management. Downtown Binghamton is an ideal location, with its proximity to the Southern Tier’s burgeoning food scene and its successful restaurants and breweries, officials said.
In fact, the Southern Tier’s identity as a food hub – from food manufacturing to the farm-to-table and locavore movements – is in part fueling its economic resurgence.
“It’s wonderful to see Binghamton on its way back,” Speaker Heastie said.