Saturday November 24, 2012

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Plans to construct a new 140-bed residential hall on the Southern Vermont College campus have been delayed.

In June, the college announced plans to break ground this fall on a new $8.5 million to $9 million, 51,000-square-foot building. The goal was to complete construction prior to next fall. However, acting President James Beckwith said Monday that the project has been pushed back a year.

"We have decided with the board and our bankers a few months ago ... that they wanted to hold off for a year for the new dorm," Beckwith said.

Beckwith declined to talk about what prompted the decision to delay the project, but did say the college remains in good financial standing and is "running at a very good surplus right now."

"Our enrollments are good, we're over budget numbers in enrollment as we sit here today, and the institution is as sound as it has ever been in its existence," he said.

Unlike the general practice of taking out a construction bond to pay for the project, funding for the proposed dormitory was expected to come from a third party, Cerone Development, which would lease the building to the college.

The project was lauded as a way to meet a housing shortage on campus when it was publicly announced in June. At that time, Beckwith said the suite-style dorm rooms would be at full occupancy in the fall of 2013.

The addition would increase the number of students who could live on campus from about 330 to 470. The college has about 600 students this semester.

Beckwith said this summer that SVC planned enrollment to be up around 650 to 700 students next fall. He declined comment Friday when asked whether pushing back construction of the dorm would have an effect on the college's short-term plan for enrollment growth. He also declined to discuss what the college's plan is regarding off-campus student housing next academic year.

This year, SVC helped find off-campus housing for students, rather than the college itself renting apartments or hotel rooms for students.

The proposed dorm, designed by HBT Architects in Pittsford, N.Y., will be located between Hunter Hall, a 41,000-square-foot building completed in 2009, and the older dormitories on campus. The proposal in June was to make the new dorm three stories in the front where the ground level is higher and four stories in the back where the land slopes down. In addition to dorm rooms, the blueprint also includes a fitness center and a chlorination plant.

At this time the building plans remain the same but there is a possibility that could change.

"We may decide to go back and revisit it, but we haven't got there yet," Beckwith said.

Beckwith did say the project's delay is unrelated to the possibility that the nursing program is be at risk of losing accreditation from the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission.

"It has nothing to do with nursing," Beckwith said.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi