National Grid invests $6 million on Syracuse's University Hill

Aug 9, 2011

With construction booming on Syracuse's University Hill, utility company National Grid announced today that it's investing $6.2 million to update its electric infrastructure there.

That's a big outlay for a company that might not be sticking around.

The head of the University Hill Corporation, David Mankiewicz said the investment is part of bigger changes in the neighborhood, to the tune of $775 million of capital investment by the area's big institutions.

One of the biggest, Upstate Medical, has seven football fields worth of new facilities in the works. 

Tom Pelis, the hospital's assistant vice president for facilities and planning, says all new buildings will be LEED-certified. But new energy-chugging technology used inside those buildings will cancel out energy savings.

"There's a shortage right now," says Pelis. "The concentration of diagnostic equipment and research equipment is straining our system."

"Absolutely imperative and critical"

National Grid's investment will go toward a new substation and cabling on University Hill.

That's critical, according to Mankiewicz, who to spoke to reporters in a parking lot beside I-81 that will become a new emergency clinic for Upstate Medical. 

"Each one of the institutions [on University Hill] can see that there's continuing investment that's going on. It's absolutely imperative and critical that all of our services support us. And certainly with National Grid making this kind of investment today ... all those lights are going to keep going."

That plea to keep the lights on - by investing more in infrastructure - isn't just coming from the institutions on the hill.

National Grid has been working to downplay reports this year that it might unload its upstate operations; the company announced job cuts earlier this year, saying it's facing aging equipment and cannot recoup its costs. A denial by the state's Public Service Commission to a fee hike request further fanned speculation.

But National Grid says it's in it for the long haul on University Hill. Spokeswoman Melanie Littlejohn told the hospital leaders assembled today that businesses can depend on the company to be a "continuing" partner.