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Replacement of Scribner Village

Posted: 04/20/2011

Call it Son of Scribner, call it loud and muddy... Mostly it’s being called a “transformative project” (by Acting President Susan Kress) and a promise of “short-term solutions to dorm overcrowding and large-scale improvements to on-campus apartment housing” (by Katie Vallas ’11 in the Skidmore News). It’s a three-phase plan to replace the aging Scribner Village apartments, moving ahead rapidly this spring.

Scribner Village replacement has been high on Skidmore’s to-do list for several years. Built in 1973 as a temporary facility on the new campus, the woodsy village of 15 rustic buildings has been a popular “neighborhood” for generations of upperclassmen. Today the structures are worn out, having served well past their life expectancy. In 2006 the Northwoods Apartments added 380 beds, mostly for seniors who might previously have opted to live off campus. The Northwoods’ success helped shape the Scribner replacement planning, which was also informed by a series of committees, open forums, and architects’ meetings over two years.

The Scribner project’s first stage is to build three more Northwoods apartment buildings near the back of the complex. Next, two new buildings will be inserted along the slope above Scribner Village. Those two phases will add 228 beds, allowing for phase 3: the demolition of Scribner and construction of seven new apartment buildings on the site. The additional Northwoods and new slopeside buildings, whose groundwork began this past winter, are slated to open in 2012. The replacement of Scribner proper will start in the summer of 2012, to be ready for occupancy in late 2013.

The project’s architects from QPK Design (who planned the Northwoods Apartments as well) are tailoring the four-story slopeside buildings especially for sophomores seeking a bit more independence than the traditional residence halls provide. The five-person apartments wil be two stories each, some entered from the slope’s high side near the campus road and some from the low side near Scribner Village. For the Scribner replacements, QPK aims to re-create its sociable community spirit: the buildings, each with a patio, will form an oval around a central park. Each building will contain eight four-bedroom apartments, and there will be two two-bedroom handicapped-accessible units. Like the Northwoods complex, the new facilities will be geothermally heated and cooled.

The completion of the first phases in 2012 will help ease the housing crunch when this year’s bumper crop of freshmen returns as sophomores and then juniors. “With the class of 2014, we need 100 more beds,” said Don Hastings, associate dean of student affairs, in a Skidmore News article. The project as a whole will mean a net gain of some 180 beds on campus. Hastings says the Northwoods Apartments reduced the number of off-campus renters to around 420; when Scribner is replaced, that number will drop further, making the College about 90 percent residential.

The new housing is underwritten by a campaign pledge of $12 million from the family of trustee Donald Sussman, father of Emily ’04. (His support for campus life also includes Emily’s Garden in the recently renovated dining hall.) An anonymous $5.5 million gift was also made, and fundraising continues. Meanwhile, to assure the project’s timely completion, Skidmore issued bonds to cover the rest of the $42.5 million cost.

Thanks to the leadership donations and Skidmore’s A1 bond rating, and to the project’s resourceful three-year staging, says Mike West, vice president for finance and administration, “We will be able to offer one of the better residential experiences among our peer and aspirant institutions.”