CMoG will expand into former Steuben factory

Derrick Ek
Gabriel Smith, project manager for Thomas Phifer and Partners, discusses his firm’s designs for the proposed Corning Museum of Glass expansion Tuesday with the City of Corning’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Plans are under way to convert the former Steuben Glass factory into a new wing for the Corning Museum of Glass.

The proposed three-year, $64 million project is expected to break ground in the spring and open in 2014, according to Beth Dann, a spokeswoman for Corning Inc., which is funding the project.

Plans have been moving quickly since the announcement this summer that Steuben Glass would be closing, Dann said.

The expansion will provide a significant boost to CMoG and thus the greater Corning area as a whole, Dann said.

“Corning Incorporated has been a strong supporter of the Corning Museum of Glass since its founding 60 years ago,” Dann said. “It’s a recognized international cultural destination, and a major economic contributor, infusing $140 million into the local economy. By investing in the museum, we are investing in the region.”

The museum, which draws approximately 400,000 visitors annually, needs room to expand in two key areas, said CMoG spokeswoman Yvette Sterbenk.

“Basically, we’re looking at two key things,” Sterbenk said. “One is more space for our collection - specifically, contemporary works which tend to be larger in scale, and which we are often unable to show. We’ll be looking at gallery space for that.”

“The other thing is to increase space for the Hot Glass Show – our glassblowing programs – which are very popular,” Sterbenk added. “We are often unable to meet capacity demands.”

That means the project will include a new Contemporary Glass Gallery and a new Hot Glass Stage, the amphitheater-style space where glass artists give demonstrations to tourists and also during events such as 2300 Degrees.

All current areas of CMoG are expected to remain open during the three-year construction phase, Sterbenk said.

“We’re really grateful to Corning Inc. for the funding,” Sterbenk said. “It’s just another demonstration of their continued support to the community. This is a really important project for us. It’s exciting for the museum, it’s exciting for the community.h

Corning Inc. and CMoG have hired Thomas Phifer and Partners, a New York City architecture firm, to design the expansion.

On its website, www.tphifer.com, the firm showcases a number of high-profile projects it has designed in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C. and other cities, including an $84 million expansion and renovation of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, N.C., which opened in 2010.

Gabriel Smith, the project manager on the North Carolina Museum of Art project, will oversee the CMoG designs for Thomas Phifer and Partners.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this incredible project,” Smith said. “For us, it’s something we cherish.”

Smith presented concept plans Tuesday evening to the City of Corning’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which will review the project and act as lead agency during the statefs required environmental review process.

Smith says the expansion and renovation will blend with the rest of the CMoG campus and will keep much of the historic Steuben Glass plant’s footprint intact. For example, the plant’s iconic Robertson Ventilator – the strange black structure that towers above the roof – will become part of the future Hot Glass Stage.

Also as part of the project, the area just north of Steuben Glass will add green space and a promenade. The parking lot for CMoG tour buses will be moved to the main lot just off Interstate 86, and a new drop-off area will bring tour buses right to the main entrance.

From there, new circulation flows on the museum floor will bring visitors into the new wing.

Thomas Phifer and Partner’s final architectural designs for CMoG will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Syracuse-based O’Brien and Gere is the engineering firm for the project.

If all goes as planned, the city’s review process could be completed by March.

“It’s great to see the site is going to be redeveloped immediately, and that it’s going to be an expansion of CMoG,” said Steve Dennis, the city’s director of planning and economic development. “It obviously has the potential to increase their visitorship, and have a larger economic impact for the city.”

The project will be seeking tax incentives from the Steuben County IDA.

Corning Inc. owns the former Steuben plant, which sits adjacent to CMoG.

The company will arrange a long-term lease to CMoG once the renovation is finished, Dann said. Corning Inc. also owns the rest of the complex which houses CmoG, although the museum itself is a separate, nonprofit entity.

CMoG’s last major expansion, completed in 2001, added the current Contemporary Glass Gallery and Hot Glass Stage, the Innovation Center, the new GlassMarket and the Auditorium. It also relocated the Rakow Research Library to a nearby building.

After struggling financially for years, Steuben Glass was shut down this fall by retail conglomerate Schottenstein Stores Corp. of Ohio, which purchased the famed luxury crystal glassmaker from Corning Inc. in 2008.

The interior of the Steuben plant is currently in the process of being taken apart and cleaned in preparation for the expansion.