By Nancy Rauch Douzinas

If you want to see a place that has made big and positive change for residents, commuters, workers, and even the planet—check out the dazzling new campus of Adelphi University.

They’ve just completed a 75,000  square-foot recreation and sports venue, a performing arts center, an outdoor sports complex, and a new Early Learning center. This on top of a residence hall, opened in 2003, and a Fine Arts Building in 2005.

But it’s not just how much they accomplished; it’s how well they did it.

Talk about “smart” growth!

New parking facilities, the bane of most college campuses (not to mention village centers!) are tucked away under the athletic fields.

The residence hall uses a geothermal heating and cooling system. A network of 60 wells circulates water 460 feet underground, where temperatures remain year-round at about 50 degrees. The circulating water cools the building on hot days, warms it on frigid ones.

Plus, each dorm room has its own thermostat, as in a hotel. People stay comfortable, and energy and money aren’t wasted on heating or cooling rooms that are not in use.

The balance sheet: The geothermal system increased the project cost by $650,000, while it lowered annual energy costs 30%. The payback period was expected to be 7-8 years. But with rises in energy costs, that fell to a mere five . From now on out, it’s savings all the way—for Adelphi, and the environment.

Such was that success, that University officials also built geothermal systems into their new sports facility and performing arts center.

Those buildings, now complete, offer wonders of their own, starting with how beautifully they harmonize with existing campus buildings. The new sports center echoes the design of stately Woodruff Hall, the original recreation building designed by McKim, Meade & White. The two buildings are connected by a two-story glass atrium, which together with an outdoor courtyard, provides an inviting space for people to stop, recharge, connect.
The Adelphi development offers inspiration to our region, which seems almost paralyzed when it comes to development. Think what was accomplished. Increased energy efficiency. New growth that didn’t destroy what was already there.

And something more. Adelphi has re-created its campus as a more congenial, functional, magnetic place. One of its issues was the number of students who commuted to campus, attended classes, and left. The new facilities tip the balance in favor of community, inviting people to stay for a pickup volleyball game, watch a varsity contest, take in a play or art show, or just hang and make part of the college life.

Sound like the kind of place Long Island’s villages should be?

Of course developing a private college and developing a downtown are two different things. But Adelphi shows—beautifully—what can be done.

And if our villages and towns are not doing likewise, it’s not because the technology isn’t ready. Or because development can’t be reconciled with existing values.

The only thing that’s stopping us is us.