Change of Pace as Local University Elevates Performing Art Program into New College
Lower Manhattan has a brand new performing arts college. Pace University is expanding its nine-year-old School of Performing Arts (until now a branch of the University’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences) into the Sands College of Performing Arts, which will launch this September as part of the 2023-24 academic year.
The Sands College (which will be the seventh within the Pace University system) is named in honor of Pamela and Rob Sands. Mr. Sands, who graduated from Pace’s law school in 1984, is the billionaire chairman of Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 beer, wine and spirits company founded by his father in the 1940s. He is also the chair of the Pace University board of trustees. Mr. and Mrs. Sands have contributed $25 million to Pace to help launch the new College of Performing Arts. Among the school’s components will be the renowned Actors Studio Drama School, which has been an affiliate of Pace University since 2006.
Sands College will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in acting, directing, musical theater, and commercial dance, along with production and design for stage and screen, and stage management. The program will be headquartered at One Pace Plaza, alongside the Brooklyn Bridge, where a new Performing Arts Center is currently under construction. This facility is slated to include three new venues (a 450-seat proscenium theater, a 200-seat flexible theater, and a 99-seat black box theater), along with scene and costume shops, dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, green rooms, and public spaces, complemented by dance studios.
“The creation of the College and the transformation of One Pace Plaza will cement Pace’s place in the downtown arts scene—and Pace’s reputation as a leading performing arts school,” Mr. Sands said in a statement.
This development comes amid an ongoing renaissance for Pace University, which is embarking on a broader transformation of One Pace Plaza that also includes new academic spaces and a revamped residence hall. The modernized One Place Paza (rendering at right) is also designed to lower carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.
The high-rise portion of One Pace Plaza, a residence hall known as Maria’s Tower, will gain additional dormitory rooms. In combination with two other new dormitories owned by Pace—at 33 Beekman Street (the tallest college residence hall in the world, opened in 2015) and 15 Beekman (now under construction)—this will allow the university to part with a third residential space it has leased for years at 55 John Street.
The ongoing Pace renovation, which began in 2017, has transformed a campus that takes up multiple square blocks and occupies the site of the former New York Tribune building, in which Pace was founded in 1906, during an era when Park Row was a district of newspaper offices.
Pace has funded the campus renovation project, in part, with proceeds from the 2016 sale of yet another student housing facility, a 15-story former office building at 106 Fulton Street that the university bought and converted into dorm rooms in 1999. This transaction brought in more than $60 million.
The number of students enrolled at Pace’s campus in Lower Manhattan has more than quintupled since the start of the 21st century. The increased headcount appears to be driven, at least in part, by Lower Manhattan’s soaring reputation as a desirable place to live, work, and study. The influx of undergraduates, combined with the availability of dormitory space, has also transformed Pace from an erstwhile commuter college into one that draws students from around the nation and the world.
But Pace’s appeal for college-bound young people is also rooted in its academic stature. In 2017, a research paper issued by a team of economists at the Equality of Opportunity Project ranked Pace University second in the nation for propelling students who begin live in the nation’s bottom 20 percent of income distribution into the top 20 percent. (The New Jersey Institute of Technology was the only institution that ranked higher.)
Pace University was also recently designated as one of the partners that will collaborate with the State University of New York at Stony Brook to develop a $700-million interdisciplinary research and climate-education hub on Governors Island, to be known as the New York Climate Exchange, which will be housed in a new, 400,000-square-foot campus.
Additionally, Princeton Review ranks Pace as one of the best colleges in the Northeast, while U.S. News & World Report rates its environmental law program as third in the nation, and the Hollywood Reporter lists Pace’s undergraduate and graduate performing arts programs (which will now be folded into Sands College) among the 25 best in the world. Last month, Forage, an organization that connects the worlds of study and work, ranked Pace University second in a list of 50 of the nation’s top institutions for experiential learning.