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Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

College makes headway on planning and construction of campus buildings

Renovations to Johnson Memorial Building, located along Château Road, will continue into the fall.
Renovations to Johnson Memorial Building, located along Château Road, will continue into the fall.

Campus is alive once again with the sounds of students’ voices, the clatter of feet and bicycle wheels on sidewalks — and the ongoing sound of various campus construction projects.

Major sites under construction this fall include Johnson Memorial Hall and Kohn field, the latter of which hosts women’s field hockey and lacrosse events. The college also completed renovations for Warner Hall, while construction for a new first-year dorm to replace Battell has stalled.

The college announced construction plans for the new Battell in the spring of 2021, but has not broken ground on the project. According to an email from Executive President for Finance and Administration David Provost, the Board of Trustees plans to decide on a timeline and budget for the building later this year. The building will be four stories high and house up to 284 students, close to half of the usual first-year class.

Middlebury capital projects are based on the 2008 Master Plan, which was updated in 2017. According to the 2017 update, the plan acts as a “compass, guiding the way in a broad direction, rather than a roadmap outlining a specific way.”

However, capital projects are also dependent on annual budgets developed by Middlebury’s Finance Office, with input from Facilities and the Space Management Committee, according to Provost.

“The budget is vetted and brought forward to the Board, by the Buildings, Grounds and Lands Committee, a board of Trustees sub-committee,” Provost wrote in the email.

Since 2008, all new construction has been planned in accordance with the College’s sustainable design guidelines, which are based on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification criteria.

Per the Master Plan, the LEED system “provides a recognizable benchmark for the College’s commitment to maintaining a leadership role in sustainable campus planning and design.”

Despite the future construction of a new residence hall and the expansion of some academic spaces, Provost stated that Middlebury does not plan on increasing enrollment and expects to enroll fewer than 2,600 students during the 2024–2025 academic year as pandemic-era enrollment levels decline.

Over the summer, work was completed on the men’s and women’s soccer fields.

“We feel extremely grateful that our home field, Dragone, was redone this summer. The short grass and flat surface allows the team to play clean, beautiful soccer and we can’t wait to host more home games this season,” said Cate Wagner ’22.5, one of the women’s soccer captains.

Renovation of Warner Hall, home to the Economics and Math Departments, was also completed over the summer. With an initial budget of $9 million, the project cost less than expected and was completed on time.

“This project involved the complete interior renovation and exterior restoration to both update the spaces and bring the building up to modern accessibility standards,” Provost said. Interior adjustments included a new elevator and renovated staircases.

Renovations to Johnson Hall also include improved accessibility features and a gallery to display student work. The renovations cost $17 million, funded by college capital and a $10 million donation from an anonymous donor.

Future projects include the new first-year residence hall and a new student center, which will be located where Proctor Hall and the tennis courts currently are. The tennis courts will be moved to the Athletic Center area next summer.

“No construction timeline is known today, but defining the scope, site and programming of the student center will allow [the development team] to raise the needed capital to build this important project,” Provost said.

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