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East Campus housing project to be subject of open meeting

By : Katie Ellis

The University community will have an opportunity to see the plans for East Campus housing at an open session this month.

Representatives from the divisions of Students Affairs and Administration will present plans that outline the phases and configuration for replacing the buildings in Newing College and Dickinson Community. The entire project, which will begin with construction of a new building in the Newing community next spring, will take several years to complete.

“The University plans to begin construction of the first building in late spring 2008, without needing to take any current beds off line,” said James Van Voorst, vice president for administration. “Beginning this quickly saves an estimated $2.3 million in construction costs over the duration of the project and will limit our need to relocate students to alternate locations.”

Additional Newing buildings and the collegiate center for both communities will be completed before work begins on the Dickinson Community. The entire project is expected to be finished in 2013.

Van Voorst said the decision to build new has not been undertaken lightly, but there are many reasons for building rather than renovating. The buildings are among the oldest on campus: The youngest building in Newing College is 43 years old and the youngest in Dickinson Community is 44 years old. Dickinson’s Digman, O’Connor and Rafuse halls are each 49 years old.

“The current buildings are well cared for, but they can’t accommodate the energy standards, accessibility requirements and expectations of today’s students,” said Lloyd “Skip” Howe, interim vice president for student affairs.

In addition, state regulations require all universities to bring residence halls up to enhanced safety standards during any major renovation. Any planned upgrades to further enhance safety and provide more attractive housing for students must also meet a particular level of fire safety, Van Voorst said.

Replacing rather than renovating the buildings is the most cost-effective avenue to follow, according to research done by the University. Renovation would cost an estimated $190 million and would not create additional programming or bed space, nor would the buildings meet Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements. Replacing the buildings for about $268 million will provide a longer life span for the buildings and make it possible to provide for current mechanical and technological needs.

The full cost of the project will be recovered through resident hall rates. “The University is working with the architects and the Dormitory Authority to phase the project over time,” Van Voorst said. “That will help us maintain the highest number of beds at any point in time and to keep the resident hall rates reasonable for students.”

The new buildings’ interior layout incorporates the desires of current and former students and those of incoming students, generally meeting the wishes of the planning groups while satisfying safety issues and providing for the future needs of our residential students. The halls will have a corridor-style design with semi-private bathrooms provided for every three double rooms, and some common bathroom facilities on each floor.

The exterior plans are not yet complete for either community, though it is certain that the exteriors for each will be different, providing an avenue through which they can maintain their separate identities.

The campus is also attempting to construct the collegiate center earlier in the project than originally anticipated. This will save about $6.3 million and more quickly provide students with another location in which to foster a sense of community. “The University is continuing to gather input on how the collegiate centers can be adapted to best serve and preserve the separate identities of each community,” Van Voorst said.

 “We’re very excited about this project,” Howe said. “It will enhance the residence hall experiences the campus has to offer and showcase the University’s commitment to nurturing the relationships between staff and students that is a hallmark of the residential experience at Binghamton.” 

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Last Updated: 10/14/08