According to Ray and Scott Carman, spokesman for Hilton Worldwide, a hotel built within the boundaries of a university would be a rare move for the company.
“I don’t know of any instances,” said Ray, speaking about Hilton managing hotels on college campuses. “None come to mind,” added Carman.
For Stony Brook as well, there is little precedent to look to. No other SUNY school has an on-campus hotel, with the exception of Cornell’s School of Hotel Management, which runs its hotel internally and uses it for educational purposes.
In order for Hilton or any other corporation to be granted access to the campus—which, as a state school, is public property—Stony Brook Foundation Realty Inc had to acquire a ground lease from the State University of New York and New York State, which it did in 1990 using $450,000 provided by the Stony Brook Foundation.
In turn, the operators of the hotel will pay an annual six-figure lease payment with a 3% hike annually to SBFR. The purpose of the hotel, however, is not to make money, says Marburger.
“It probably won’t make money. Let’s hope it breaks even,” he said.
Frey echoed the sentiment, saying that SBFR would probably be saddled with some costs.
“They would probably incur some costs, like inspections,” he said.
But the biggest concerns about the hotel have nothing to do with the financial implications of a private corporation operating at a public university. Instead, students, faculty, community members and even local legislators are concerned about the aesthetic and environmental impact that the hotel could potentially have.
The Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, an organization with no formal ties to the university, has begun a campaign to dissuade the university from building a hotel—or any other structure—on the land currently allocated for the project.
“Our position is that SBEC supports a genuine campus conference facility with commensurate accommodations; but we are adamantly against the construction of a commercial hotel on state land at the campus entrance,” said SBEC President Malcolm Bowman in a letter sent to supporters. Bowman is a Distinguished Service Professor at the university’s Marine Sciences Research Center.
The SBEC is encouraging its members to look into irregularities in the ground lease, possible conflicts of interest and a lack of a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) as grounds for impeding the construction of the hotel.
“A great university has a responsibility to set an example as a protector of environmental quality,” said Charles Wurster, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences and a founder of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Any more deforestation is too much. Stony Brook must protect in perpetuity its remaining forests.”
“Every effort should be made to preserve the remaining green spaces on this campus,” said Godlind Johnson, the head of the Science & Engineering Library on campus.
For its part, Harbor Construction Management will have an eye on energy efficiency during the construction.
“It will be LEED certified,” said Frey. LEED certification is the industry standard for measuring the environmental friendliness of construction projects.