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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Winter 2002 > College Row
College Row

Work to begin on new dorms

Architects are making plans for new campus dormitories and the construction phase is expected to begin with work on the conversion of Williston Hall this August. Estimated cost of the initial projects is $11.8 million.

Williston Floor Plan.
First-floor plan for Williston Hall

These projects include $3.5 million in changes to Williston, which now houses classrooms and faculty offices, to make it a freshman dormitory for 36 students. The architect chosen for Williston's conversion—a remodeling that will be faithful to the historic exterior of the 144-year-old landmark—is James McKinney of Sacco-McKinney Architects of Albany, N.Y.

Following the start of that project, new housing for 65 students will also be constructed near Milliken, an existing dormitory that used to be the college infirmary. The cost estimate of the new dormitory complex there is $6.2 million, and the architect will be William Rawn & Associates of Boston.

A third project, also to be undertaken this summer, is a $2.1-million installation of temporary, modular housing for 100 students just south of the Life Sciences Building, on the former site of the college's old clay tennis courts. The plan is for these housing units to be removed after five years.

The three projects are scheduled to be completed on or before June 2003. They will give the college new rooms for 201 students, which will then allow it to vacate two freshman dormitories—James and Stearns—which now house nearly 200 students. The obsolescent, 56-year-old James and Stearns will then be torn down and replaced on site with two similar but less crowded, better-quality dormitories for first-year students. The architectural firm selected for the James and Stearns project is Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott of Boston. Estimated total cost of this two-dorm project is an additional $15 million.

President Gerety explains that Amherst's current student housing "is inadequate in comparison to our peers, and we have for too long deferred action of 'de-tripling' first-year rooms, providing common space for residential programming, and addressing safety and infrastructure needs in some of our dormitories."

The closely connected sequence of moves, culminating in 2007 with the conversion of the Pratt Geology Building into a seventh freshman dorm, will correct those housing deficiencies and also achieve its goal of housing all freshmen around the historic Main Quadrangle (see Summer 2001 Amherst). Appleton Hall and North and South dormitories are already freshman residences.

In the meantime, the philosophy and black studies departments will be moved from their present offices in Williston to new quarters in Cooper House, the former faculty apartment building on College Street.

Before the dorm-building sequence is over, new facilities will be built for geology and for the Pratt Museum of Natural History.

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