When Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley announced at a university senate meeting on October 5 that plans for an on-campus hotel would be moving forward, he became just the latest champion of an issue that has already outlived two lengthy administrations before his own.
Most of the controversy and complications associated with the hotel can be traced back to the fact that Stony Brook is a public university, and is therefore subject to any number of state regulations and restrictions.
John H Marburger, Stony Brook University’s president from 1980 to 1994, was the first to suggest a hotel be built within the boundaries of the university.
“I started the whole thing and I worked with the Stony Brook Foundation,” he said. “They established a realty sub-unit to deal with this.”
The establishment of Stony Brook Foundation Realty Inc in 1979 and its activation in 1987 was solely for the purposes of, in the words of the Stony Brook Foundation, “facilitating the development and operation of a conference center/hotel on the Stony Brook University campus.”
Now, almost a quarter century later, plans have been drawn up to construct a five story, 135-bedroom hotel on a 13-acre plot of land by the main entrance of the university, complete with a 5,000 square foot conference center, indoor pool, exercise facility and restaurant. The only point of access to the hotel will be off of Circle Road, across the street from the Administration building parking garage.
The hotel will be operated and managed by a private corporation. Hilton Garden Inn, a subsidiary of Hilton Worldwide, is currently the front-runner in ongoing negotiations, but a final decision has yet to be made.
The construction project has been contracted to Harbor Construction Management, an affiliate of Harbor Financial Management based in nearby Port Jefferson. Its CEO Robert Frey is a research professor at Stony Brook and a trustee of the Stony Brook Foundation, which is footing the bill (through their realty affiliate) for construction of the hotel.
The design of the building and its surroundings has yet to be finalized, but Frey says that it will likely fit in with the campus décor.
“In terms of design, the general target is the Humanities building,” he said, referring to the brick structure nearby.
Marburger is also unconcerned about a corporate building interfering with the aesthetics of a university as large as Stony Brook.
““I’m not too worried about the intrusiveness onto the architecture or the traffic of the campus,” he said.
Harbor Construction Management will ultimately be taking orders from the Foundation, which will have “final authority” according to Frey.
Once the building is completed, Stony Brook Foundation Realty Inc will turn the property over to a private hotel manager and operator. SBFR is in final discussions with Hilton Garden Inn to manage the hotel, according to Hilton Garden Inn spokeswoman Dawn Ray.
Those discussions may take longer than expected because both SBFR and Hilton are in uncharted territory.