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RIT finds its new village pays off fast

Eight months after opening with hopes of becoming a central gathering point on campus and an asset in creating a strong international flavor, Global Village is paying off for Rochester Institute of Technology.
The $54 million project, with housing, retail space and restaurants on the southwest part of campus, has earned accolades for its international foods store and will have a central role for a leadership conference for women later this month.
Completed before the start of the 2010-11 school year, Global Village replaced the oldest housing on RIT’s campus with 70 apartments housing six students each. It was built with an international feel, with each floor and retail location taking a different global theme expressed through lighting, architecture and colors.
Overall the project has met the objectives RIT had for it, said James Watters, vice president for finance. But as importantly, Global Village has become the kind of student meeting place that administrators envisioned when planning it.
"Students sat out in the evenings in the courtyards well into late November, enjoying the ambiance of evening dinners and people watching," Watters said. "The gift shop continues to draw more alumni artists wanting to offer their works for sale, and the residential facilities were full."
The project got a boost in October when RIT received $1 million from Constellation Brands Inc. to create an office consolidating global education efforts there. The office brings together projects offering support for students looking to study abroad, faculty exchange opportunities and multicultural programs.
"This enabled us to build out resources much faster than planned," Watters said, adding that though there are no further plans to expand Global Village, it is one site under consideration for a new hockey activity center.
Global Village has been used as one of the few outdoor meeting places on campus. When the university’s women’s hockey team reached the national championship, a rally was held there, and a gathering for missing student George Delaney also took place at Global Village.
"It’s been a great gathering place, the kind of common square you see in great cities," said Mary Beth Cooper, RIT vice president for student affairs.
Later this month the residences at Global Village will play host to attendees at a conference for professional women called "Finding Your Mojo: A Leadership Event for Women." The event, which features keynote speaker Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach and best-selling author, and Deborah Hughes, executive director of the Susan B. Anthony House, will use Global Village as a backdrop.
The conference is expected to be groundbreaking for the area, delving into the growth of women in executive positions while also drawing attention to RIT’s asset in Global Village, Cooper said.
"This is something Rochester needs, and nothing of this scope has been done before here," she said. "I think this will be very good for RIT too, using the campus in a time that’s normally very quiet around here."
Global Village has received more formal accolades as well. The anchor store there, an international foods and fair-trade goods store called the Market, recently won a 2011 Best in Business New Store Design Award from the National Association of College and University Food Services.
Winning the award for the most innovative and creatively designed food concept-especially amid tough nationwide competition-is a strong sign for the Market, Watters said.
"This is a great achievement when you consider the number of colleges and universities and new products coming on line each year," Watters said.
The success of the Market and other retail ventures in Global Village is clearer in the amount of business they bring in, Watters noted. The salon there saw tremendous growth in clients, and a Mexican restaurant, Salsarita’s Fresh Mex Cantina, is keeping more customers on campus, he added.
Business at the Market has been stronger than expected, with the store running above its predicted budget since opening. Some international products have been become popular, especially Goya soda and Japanese candy, said Melissa Kara, the store’s assistant manager.
"Business has been excellent," Kara said. "People are excited to come in and see products they can’t find on campus or other places. For international students it’s good for them to have a kind of home away from home."

6/3/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


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