College seeks OK for new on-campus student housing project

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College is proposing to add four new student residences that would contain a combined total of 158 beds, a project aimed, college officials said, at reducing currently cramped housing conditions and encouraging on-campus living.
The new housing would be built in conjunction with the removal of temporary modular housing that was installed below the campus’s Western Ridgeline in 1997.  That modular housing currently houses 35 students.
Middlebury College’s plans are outlined in an application to the Middlebury Development Review Board, which will take its first look at the plans on April 27.
Those plans call for:
•  Three townhouse-style apartment buildings with four units per building, to house a total of around 96 students. These buildings would front on the west side of Adirondack View and establish a streetscape along the western side of the road, according to the application. These townhouses — described as being two stories with an additional half-story in the rear — would be arranged around a common green space.
“The townhouse buildings will be aesthetically in keeping with the residential patterns of the college and the surrounding neighborhood,” the application states. Porches, common living spaces and kitchen facilities would be included in the buildings, giving students the option of cooking, as opposed to eating at one of the college’s dining halls.
“The site along Adirondack View was chosen for the townhouses due to the more residential scale and nature of the townhouse buildings,” the application reads.
•  One suite-style residential building that would house 62 students. This two-story structure would be sited on one of the eight house sites originally contemplated by the college as part of its proposed Western Ridgeline development. The two upper floors of this Ridgeline residence hall would comprise six suites each containing four single bedrooms, living spaces and a shared common bath.
The walkout level would have four suites containing between three and four single bedrooms per suite, shared living spaces and a common bathroom. It would also have two large central common rooms, one with a shared kitchenette and the other with a full kitchen. Shared laundry facilities would also be provided on-site.
The proposed suite-style building, at around 38 feet tall, will require a three-foot waiver from the town’s maximum building height requirement for that area.
All four student residences would be connected to municipal water and sewer systems, according to the application. They would be landscaped with front lawns to “mirror the residential feel” of the existing residences along Adirondack View. The rear of the residences would have a more “natural” planting mix, with native woodland vegetation, the application states.
MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE HOPES to remove the “modular” student housing units that were installed in 1997 below the western ridgeline of the campus. They will be replaced with four new housing units. Independent photo/Victoria Provost
College officials contend that the proposed new housing would be isolated enough so that it should not present any disruption to Middlebury neighborhoods.
Parking at the four new buildings would be limited along Adirondack View to handicap and service vehicles. Students would be expected to park in the existing Ridgeline lot and a parking lot expansion made possible by removal of the modular residences. Sixty-seven new parking spaces are proposed to be added to the existing 314-space parking lot, for a total of 381 spaces.
Patrick Norton, the college’s treasurer and vice president for finance, said the project is designed to give the institution a larger and more flexible housing stock. He noted the institution has had to convert some double rooms into triples and turn some of its lounges into housing to relieve overcrowding. The college has a current student enrollment of about 2,450.
“We have very little flexibility in our housing stock, and this (project) would allow us to have that,” he said. “We haven’t boosted our housing stock in a while, and this is our opportunity.”
The college and the town have an agreement allowing for up to 125 students to live off campus at any given time. Norton believes the four new student residences could substantially reduce the need for off-campus residency; by how much, he’s not sure. The four new buildings will provide a net increase of 125 student beds.
“Our thinking is, we want to move students from off-campus — but not all of them — to the campus,” Norton said. “I would imagine a fair number of students will be moving from off-campus to on-campus.”
Norton added the new housing stock would also come in handy for the college’s summer programs. The college operates a world-renowned language school.
Ted Dunakin, Middlebury DRB administrator, said the college application will be treated as a substantial change in the Planned Unit Development portion of the institution’s master plan. That Planned Unit Development in question encompasses college property west of the Otter Creek, according to Dunakin.
Middlebury selectboard Chairman Dean George applauded the college for trying to offer more on-campus housing opportunities.
“Their goal is to provide housing to as close as possible to 100 percent of their students,” George said. “We appreciate that effort.”
Locally, the news is likely to be well-received by some neighborhoods that have complained about loud parties in off-campus housing, but perhaps less hailed by landlords who have rented apartments to students.
Norton said the new residence halls would be substantially built off-site and assembled on campus. The goal is to have the new housing available to students by the fall of 2016, he added.
“We’re excited about this project, and I think the students are too,” Norton said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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