Sussman Village opens ahead of schedule to positive reaction

Posted by Julia Leef '14

This October will mark the official coronation of the Sussman Village, previously known as the "New Apartments," marking the end of the three-phase construction plan which has been underway since January 2012.

The entire village reconstruction project cost $42 million, according to Michael West, Vice President for Finance and Administration and treasurer, $12 million of which was donated to the College by Trustee Emeritus and chair man of the College's investment committee, S. Donald Sussman, for whose family the village is named and whose daughter, Emily Sussman '04, is a Skidmore alumna. Sussman also has the privilege of renaming the individual apartment units if he so chooses.

The Sussman Village apartments have the capacity to house 238 students, although currently about five apartments, which each host four bedrooms, remain open, according to Donald Hastings, Director of Residential Life.

"So far it's beautiful," Hastings said, when asked about the general student reaction to the new apartments. "It's brand new and everybody loves it. The general feel has been real positive." Hastings also said that with the departure of the Class of 2014 this May, the College's largest graduating class to date at 772 students, the College may be able to finally reach its 90 percent student housing goal as more on-campus residences open up.

The new apartments boast larger living rooms and kitchens than their Northwoods counterparts, although the bedrooms are slightly smaller. Students may also park directly behind their apartment complexes, eliminating a lengthy walk to their homes. The new apartments add approximately 170 new beds, resulting in a grand total of 466 apartment-beds on-campus.

"They're really spacious and comfortable," Lucy Flanagan '15 said. "I think the mapping out of them is not very fluid. But the actual buildings themselves are very nice."

"I like the layout of the kitchen," Ariel Strobel '14 said, "and although the bedrooms are smaller I feel that the apartments have a more comfortable vibe than the old Scribner apartments. I wish the parking lots and roads went two ways. I've seen many people just go through the wrong way because they don't want to go all the way around to their apartment, and it's dangerous."

The effort to provide students with on-campus apartment housing has been a long one, starting with the experimental creation of Scribner Village (now the site of Sussman Village) in 1973, which was built with the back-up plan of selling the apartments if they did not work well as student housing.

Years later, when the College sold Moore Hall, a 1957 residential building on Union Avenue for sophomores, in the spring of 2006, the College opened up the Northwoods village that fall on an old staging site. Another complex, Whitman Way, was opened in that village in January of 2012, followed by the Hillside apartments in September of 2012 and concluding with the Sussman apartments that opened at the start of this semester.

The Sussman Village was originally slated to open in November or December of this year. Although the original projection date of completion was at the start of the semester, the College thought this too ambitious of a date, according to Hastings. And even so, only five of the seven units were supposed to be ready by the planned date.

According to Hastings, the Office of Residential Life received word around the second week of August that Apartment F would be ready in time for the new semester, and near the beginning of the semester learned that Apartment I would also be available. The Office of Residential Life reached out to the more than 100 Juniors and Seniors living in the residence halls, and were able to fill most of the newly opened apartments.

"It's been a great project," Hastings said. "As you go up and down the eastern seaboard, I haven't seen anything like it. It's very nice housing."

With more Juniors and Seniors living in apartment housing, Hastings said that he hopes to decrease the number of triples in the residence halls, eventually opening the school year with only 50, as opposed to the 90 percent of the Class of 2014 that had triple housing at the start of their academic year.

With these changes also come considerations to changing the current format of the room selection lottery, leading the Office of Residential Life to consider such possibilities as flipping the order of on-campus and off-campus housing selections or giving sophomores preference in the residence halls over upperclassmen, thus encouraging more upperclassmen to move into the apartments or off-campus.

Hastings also said that he hopes to see a community center built in Sussman Village where students can host parties, meet in groups or attend programs. This building would be located in the space of green between Apartments L and F and would serve to unite students for community activities and meetings.

The Office of Residential Life may be looking to remodel the residence halls again. This works on a cyclic system, with Jonsson Tower being the first of the halls to receive a renovation and Wiecking being the most recently refurbished. Now, Hastings said, the decision lies with whether to start over with Jonsson again, or to take a building out of the cycle for the year and completely redo it.

"We need to look at our residence halls and see what the next generation going out will need or want," Hastings said, adding that this continuous reworking has always been a part of the College's history. Originally, the halls in the south and north quads served as dorms instead of living spaces, with the Starbuck building serving as the common area for the south quad and the Barrett Center for the north quad.

There is also a discussion of what to do with the Hillside apartments, which has been considered in the past for sophomore-only housing. The discussion includes the debate of whether to make themed housing (spinning off of first-year seminars, clubs and organizations or members of the Honors Forum). This decision, Hastings said, will have to be made before room selection begins for the fall of 2014. 

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