Posted by Katie Vallas
Students returned from winter break to see new progress in the Scribner Village construction project, which has been underway since last fall. After years of development and planning, the first structures will be completed as early as spring of next year.
The three phases of the construction project include an addition to Northwoods Apartments, the creation of new slope-side apartments alongside the perimeter road and a complete reconstruction of Scribner Village apartments, with eventual demolition of all existing structures in the complex.
With initial site work for the new Northwoods apartments ongoing since last fall, the three new Northwoods apartment buildings will be available for student housing by spring 2012.
Pending the college's receipt of building permits and selection of construction firms to helm the project, blasting at the site will soon give way to construction.
"The heavy work is going to start relatively soon, which is going to be when they're really breaking ground on the Northwoods site," said Ryan Ballantine, community coordinator for Scribner Village.
The second phase of the project remains in the initial stages, with subcontractors starting to clear the slope-side apartments' site at the start of this year.
"I think it's clearer to everyone how these apartments are going to fit into the project now," said Mike West, vice-president for Finance and Administration.
With most of the blasting at the slope-side site accomplished over the winter break, crews will continue to remove rock from the site during the coming weeks.
The project has been fueled by popular support at each planning stage, with administrators receiving unanimous approval from the college's Board of Trustees, Saratoga Springs' Planning Board and Saratoga Springs residents who live near the site.
"Everyone in the community has been positive about the project and positive about the college," West said. "We think it's a great project for our students, for the college and for the town."
The Board of Trustees supported the project as the culmination of several decades of plans to replace the original Scribner Village, built in 1973 as an experiment to gauge student response to apartment-style on-campus living.
The eventual move forward with the project came as a result of trustee donations, including a $12 million donation from the Sussman family and an additional $5.5 million gift from an anonymous trustee.
While additional fundraising efforts for the project will run concurrently with its construction, West said these trustee donations ensured that the project's completion would not be contingent upon further giving.
"We're striving to get additional gifts for the project, but these gifts mean we have substantial funding in place," he said.
He said he expects the project will be named in honor of the Sussman family's generosity.
"It's highly likely that the name will be changed to honor the wonderful and generous gift," West said. "We wish to recognize their gift that has made the difference to be able to permit us to do this project for our students."
Administrators said they expect the completion of the project to act as a strong improvement over the existing Scribner Village.
"The current Scribner is not the best environment for our students, especially compared to the other areas we have on campus," Ballantine said. "The whole idea that we're going to get new, fresh housing full of modern amenities is going to be a great thing for the students here."
But as construction continues, the project will necessarily inconvenience current students living in Northwoods and Scribner apartments, administrators said.
"The buildings at the top of the hill are most likely going to cause some disruption, especially for the students who live in the buildings closest to the construction site in Scribner Village," Ballantine said.
Already, students in Northwoods Apartments have come forward with complaints about noise associated with the new apartments' construction. "The college has made an effort to keep a very strict time frame for when they can start work," Ballantine said, adding that crews have been asked not to begin work before 8 a.m.
As the project continues, administrators anticipate students experiencing further disruptions.
"There will be some noise and some dirt, and there'll be times when we might have to shut the road down for bringing in a piece of equipment or moving a key piece of steel," West said. "We regret that, but we're under a very strict time frame to get these ready for our students."
While West said he understands any student frustration with the process, he added he hopes students will remember the importance of this project in transforming the college's residential experience.
"In three years – which is a long time for a student who is here, but in the history of the college is a relatively short time – we will have one of the better, more competitive residential experiences than any of our peers and, I would even say, some of our aspirant institutions," West said.