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Upstate secures $32M in funding for tower work

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Upstate Medical University has secured $32 million from the sale of municipal bonds to complete construction on Townsend Tower, a vacant downtown Syracuse high-rise that will be transformed into housing for Upstate students and medical residents.

Proceeds from the bond sale, arranged locally by M&T Bank, will be directed to Upstate Properties Development Inc., a not-for-profit development corporation created by Upstate in 2007 to facilitate property acquisition and development. The bonds were issued by the Onondaga Civic Development Corp. Upstate will repay the bond amount with interest over time. No state funding is being used in the development of the tower.

The bonds were assigned an A+ long-term rating by Standard and Poor's Rating Services.

"We're pleased with the support of the financial community for this project," said Upstate President David R. Smith, M.D. "We are pleased not only with the opportunity this facility provides for our students and medical residents, but with the potential this project has to begin a revitalization in this important area of downtown Syracuse. The health and vibrancy of our city is of significant importance to Upstate."

Townsend Towers is adjacent to two chief settings for Upstate's outpatient clinics. It is located at the 500 Harrison St., on the corner of Townsend and Harrison streets, next door to the medical facility at 550 Harrison St., and across the street from University Health Care Center.

Townsend Tower will be renamed Geneva Tower in a nod to Upstate's roots. Upstate's earliest predecessor was Geneva Medical College, which was founded in 1834 and located in Geneva, N.Y.

The tower will feature various living arrangements: 40 one-bedroom units, 80 two-bedroom units and 19 four-bedroom suites for a total of 276 beds. Each unit will have a kitchen and one or two bathrooms. Other amenities include an exercise facility, group study areas and a lounge.

When renovations are complete, the building is expected to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the Gold level, which is the second highest green building certification offered.

"This will be an energy efficient building with significant upgrades in windows and insulation, as well as lighting and heating, air conditioning and ventilations systems," said Tom Pelis, Upstate assistant vice president for facilities and planning.

Upstate plans to complete the renovations in time for the building to be occupied by Fall 2012.

In addition to Townsend Towers, Upstate also owns Harrison House, located nearby. Work on Harrison House is not expected to begin until sometime next year, with occupancy in Fall 2014.

Upstate acquired the buildings in the summer of 2010 from the Empire State Development Corp., which held the mortgage on the properties. The buildings had been vacant since January 2010.

The addition of more student residences is part of the Upstate Initiative, Upstate's blueprint to expand and enhance the university's core missions of research, education and patient care as a way to address key issues in healthcare, such as shortages in the health professions and access to care.

Upstate's only residence hall, Clark Tower, provides accommodations for only 190 students. Upstate's total enrollment is more than 1,500.