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College seeks OK for a new building that will herald other building projects

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College is seeking town permission to erect a new, 23,000-square-foot building off Shannon Street to accommodate faculty and students temporarily displaced by upcoming renovations to Munroe and Warner halls.
The two-story structure, to be sited on the south side of the “E” parking lot behind Johnson Memorial Building, would also assimilate some of McCardell Bicentennial Hall’s current programming so that it can better accommodate a growing number of students seeking science and computer-related education. The new “swing building,” as it is being called, would house the college’s computer science department, currently housed within Bi Hall.
An estimated 62 faculty and 125 students would use the swing building daily, according to a project narrative Middlebury College Project Manager Tom McGinn has filed at the town offices.
College officials see the project as an important precursor to a series of capital improvements that will be mapped out on campus during the next five years. The centerpiece of that construction, according to McGinn’s narrative, will be a new academic building.
Bill Burger, the college’s vice president for communications and chief marketing officer, said the institution has yet to assign a specific location or program use for the new academic building. Those details — along with design and financing — will be sorted out during the next three to five years, according to college officials.
For now, the college wants to make sure it has enough reserve space to keep programs running at full capacity when repairs place some of the college’s facilities temporarily out of service. This strategy is reflected in a “space utilization study” the institution kicked off last fall.
Upcoming renovations at Munroe and Warner halls will address Americans with Disabilities Act shortcomings, mechanical/thermal systems upgrades, and fire & safety amenities, according to McGinn’s project narrative. The $4.5 million swing building will have a useful lifespan of 10 to 30 years, according to Burger. And the college will be able to dismantle and potentially relocate it depending on the institution’s ever evolving space needs.
“I think this building, and the style with which it is going to be constructed, will give us much-needed flexibility over the next couple of decades,” Burger said.
This is the college’s second try at a swing building proposal. Officials pitched a similar plan last summer that was to have been sited east of the Atwater Dining Hall, at the north end of the Johnson “E” parking lot. College officials shelved the plan in order to iron out some wrinkles. For example, the structure as initially designed would have impinged on a much-appreciated view for those dining at nearby Atwater Commons.
The new proposal would preserve the Atwater view shed, though it would still result in the loss of two tennis courts that would be converted to parking to make up for 50 current spaces on which the swing building would be erected.
At its highest point, the new building would measure 34 feet, 4 inches and have a roughly 12,200-square-foot footprint. The slab-on-grade structure would be clad primarily in metal panels. Designers are seeking to reduce the visual impact of the building with such features as a covered portico and recessed entries.
The proposed site is in the town’s Institutional zoning district and will need to receive a conditional use permit from the Middlebury Development Review Board. The DRB is slated to review the swing building plan at its Feb. 12 meeting.
Assuming a smooth permitting process, college officials would like to see the swing building under construction this spring and ready to be occupied during the next academic year, according to Burger.
College officials are pleased with the growing popularity of the institution’s science programming, and it wasn’t that long ago that the institution beefed up its science amenities. Liberal arts students of today and tomorrow are asking for more in the way of science instruction, and Middlebury College wants to deliver.
McCardell Bicentennial Hall has become the college’s hub for science programs. Named for former college President John McCardell, the building was completed in 1999 at a total cost of $47.3 million. It comprises 116,900 square feet and is headquarters to 90 faculty and staff representing seven academic departments: Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, Geography, Geology, Physics, and Psychology. It also hosts the Armstrong Library and programming for Environmental Studies, Neuroscience, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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