Student Housing: Skidmore College gets started on $42 million project to replace, add apartment-style student housing

Student Housing: Skidmore College gets started on $42 million project to replace, add apartment-style student housing

By MAREESA NICOSIA for The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Dog-walkers, cyclists and joggers who’ve taken advantage of Skidmore College’s quiet roadways while students are on vacation this winter have surely noticed the orange signs and the bulldozers.

Work is under way to overhaul the student apartments in the hilly residential swath of the private liberal arts college’s campus.

The $42 million undertaking was approved by the Saratoga Springs City Planning Board Dec. 8. Since then, crews have been using dynamite to blast apart rocky earth at the future site of two new four-story apartment buildings on the ridge overlooking Scribner Village, where more than 200 of the school’s students reside.

The village of 15 wood-frame apartment buildings was built in 1973 as the school’s experiment with on-campus apartment living, something Skidmore officials strongly encourage and want to see more of.

“We think (on-campus residential life) is an important part of one’s education — what happens in the classroom is complemented and supplemented by what happens outside of the classroom,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration and college treasurer Michael West.

Apparently, it’s a popular option — only freshmen are required to live on-campus but about 80 to 85 percent of the school’s 2,400 students do. They occupy the freshman residence halls on the main campus, the fully occupied sophomore apartments in Scribner Village and the less-than-5-year-old Northwoods Apartments that house juniors and seniors.

But the Scribner buildings are beyond their “useful life,” West said, and due to increasing enrollment, they hold more students than college officials prefer — six or seven in each apartment instead of the ideal four or five. Crowding in the freshman residence halls, where three quarters of the class currently lives in triples, is also putting pressure on the college to build anew, West said.

College officials say they expect upward of 90 percent of the student population to live on campus by fall 2013, when all three phases of the construction project should be finished.

Three new Northwoods buildings that will house 114 students are expected to be completed by late this year, replacing a parking lot, while two new buildings will be constructed adjacent to Scribner Village by the fall of 2012, housing another 114 students. Finally, the current Scribner Village apartments will be demolished and replaced by late 2013. All new buildings will be heated and cooled using geo-thermal energy.

QPK Design of Syracuse, which the college hired to build the Northwoods Apartments between 2004 and 2006, is the architecture firm responsible for the designs.

Ultimately, the project will add approximately 190 new beds for sophomores and upperclassmen who want to live semi-independently in the fully furnished apartments yet still be within a five-minute walk from professors’ offices, health services and the dining hall, said Don Hastings, associate dean of student affairs and director of residential life.

“We see ourselves as a residential college, so we believe that students do better when they’re more closely associated with the institution,” Hastings said.

The cost associated with these conveniences, however, is not included in tuition, books and fees: students pay nearly $4,000 per semester to live in Scribner Village, while Northwoods residents pay about $4,200 per semester.

Much of the cost of the three-year construction project will be provided by gifts to the college, including $12 million from college trustee Donald Sussman and alumna Emily Sussman, and $5.5 million from an anonymous donor. The college will use $4 million from its reserves and has applied to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York to furnish the remaining $21 million through a 30-year, tax-exempt bond.

The college took on a similar 30-year, $30 million bond in 2004 to build the Northwoods Apartments, make major renovations to its dining hall and upgrade its athletic fields.

Last year, as its capital fundraising campaign concluded, the college celebrated the opening of the $32.5 million Arthur Zankel Music Center. The 54,000-square-foot facility has drawn world-renowned performers to its stage and supplied students, staff and community members with a state-of-the-art venue for study and performance.

Skidmore plans to keep the changes coming.

According to West, the school will launch a fundraising campaign to support the renovation of its science buildings within four to seven years. A new admissions building on the main campus, library renovations and the centralization of the Information Technology offices to the library are all planned within the next three to five years, he said. The renovations will largely be paid for with gifts to the college and the institution’s own funds.


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