Pace Magazine

A New Cultural Landmark Rises in Downtown

Alyssa Cressotti
July 10, 2024
longitudinal cross-section of one pace plaza east on the New York City Pace University Campus.

“We are becoming the premiere school for performing arts in New York City. Our programs and faculty have always attracted top students and collaborators, but the state-of-the-art facility will make us a leader in advancing the field of performing arts,” says Jennifer Holmes, PhD, executive director of the Sands College of Performing Arts.

In Fall 2023, Pace University embarked on an ambitious revitalization of One Pace Plaza East (1PPE), marking the start of a transformative era for both the campus and the Downtown Manhattan community. This comprehensive reconstruction aims to create a modern, inviting building featuring top of the line classroom and creative arts spaces, collaborative areas, and a world-class Performing Arts Center.

Sands College is quickly becoming known for its rigorous training, distinguished faculty, and exceptional alumni who have graced prestigious stages and screens worldwide. With the addition of this state-of-the-art facility, our programs will now have a home that matches their excellence. This investment underscores our dedication to providing an unparalleled educational experience, ensuring our students have access to unparalleled resources and opportunities.

The new Performing Arts Center will fortify the already robust pipeline between Sands and leading roles in the performing arts industry. By enhancing our most competitive program, we are not only elevating the academic reputation of Sands but also positioning our graduates for continued success in their careers. This strategic synergy between top-tier education and premier industry connections will solidify Pace’s standing as a leader in performing arts education, shaping the future of the arts for generations to come.

We are becoming the premiere school for performing arts in New York City. Our programs and faculty have always attracted top students and collaborators, but the state-of-the-art facility will make us a leader in advancing the field of performing arts.

Not only will the new Performing Arts Center support Pace’s esteemed Sands College of Performing Arts programs; it will also act as a central gathering space, welcoming artists, students, faculty, and local residents alike.

The renovations to 1PPE will include a proscenium theater, replacing the Schimmel Center, plus other theater and support spaces. This transformation ensures up-to-date instructional, creative, and performance spaces that a robust Pace experience requires, keeping our large gathering space—used by the entire University and the broader community—at the center of our campus.

"The three new theaters will be able to engage in dialogue with each other, and one theater opens out into our courtyard offering opportunities for audiences to move through the spaces and experience performance in new and dynamic ways," explains Holmes. "This will be exciting for our directors, designers, and performers who can creatively reimagine the audience experience and expand their storytelling."

This project, more than just a physical transformation, also signifies a bold step toward a sustainable future, significantly reducing our carbon emissions and enhancing energy efficiency. The renovation of Maria’s Tower will offer modern residential spaces for our students, fostering a thriving campus life.

“Pace, as an institution, is very outcome-focused; we want students to be learning in environments that are like their work environments are going to be. You can't really put someone in a 50-year-old classroom with a chalkboard at the front and expect them to go on to excel in some really high-tech professional environments,” explains Vice President for Strategy and Partnerships Jean Gallagher. “We want to give our students the space and tools they’ll need to envision themselves where they want to be after graduation.”

"These facilities will support our responsiveness to the needs of the industry. We can ensure that our curricula is forward-thinking, preparing our students for the performing arts industry of tomorrow and for them to be the changemakers for the future of the industry," adds Holmes. "To do that, we need to ensure our spaces are flexible and prepared for new and emerging technologies. These spaces will be able to support our training in VR/AR, video projection, and other areas of growth."

The project builds on the previous reimagining of the West side of One Pace Plaza, work that was completed in 2018, envisioning a more connected campus community. With the recent addition of 15 Beekman to Pace’s footprint downtown and the overhaul of One Pace Plaza East, Pace will, in a sense, bring our community closer together.

One of the key components to re-envisioning a university space is not just the way a building is constructed, but accounting for the ways in which it will be used by the people who inhabit it. “Our team is very focused on creating better connectivity between the East and West sides of One Pace Plaza to improve circulation, wayfinding, and accessibility,” adds Ibi Yolas, vice president of Campus Planning and Facilities.

We want to give our students the space and tools they’ll need to envision themselves where they want to be after graduation.

These renovations, expansions, and revitalizations are wonderful for the Pace Community, but even more importantly, we want the changing shape of campus to benefit our neighbors downtown. “A university should be a community resource. We want to be seen as that by employers, other businesses in the community, and also by people who live here,” asserts Gallagher. “We want our downtown neighbors to know that Pace does events, we do have an art gallery, we do offer performances.”

Holmes echoes the excitement, “Pace is becoming a household name, and we honestly deserve the recognition! Pace is such a bold and dynamic community, and as we grow, more and more people will be able to see, and experience it.”

The new Performing Arts Center will be a place for audiences to see Broadway and Hollywood’s best artists, for a fraction of the ticket cost, engage in new immersive performing arts experiences. Holmes continues "Pace will be part of a thrilling downtown arts corridor that includes PAC NYC, Battery City Dance, and many other organizations that are drawing audiences from around the world to lower Manhattan."

Yolas agrees, “I believe the investment we are making in our campus is a clear indication of our commitment to improve not only the Pace Community experience, but also the experience of the wider community, our neighbors, and Downtown New York City. I firmly believe we can be the leading destination for the arts in downtown.”

More from Pace Magazine

Pace Magazine

At Pace University, we're redefining humanities education to meet the needs of the 21st century. Through hands-on community projects, research-based course experiences, and a focus on digital humanities, we're preparing graduates to be leaders and innovators. Our mission is to link curiosity-driven learning with real-world impact, creating a future where knowledge truly pays the best interest.

Pace Magazine

What does it mean to learn in an AI-driven world? Pace University staff, faculty, and leadership weigh in on the concerns, challenges, and opportunities that AI presents for students, both during their education and within future careers.

Pace Magazine

With projects designed to restore our ocean’s coral reefs and improving clean water accessibility–and two $15,000 grants to boot–Pace students are generating creative solutions to combat climate change.