Members of Student Life and Facilities grabbed their shovels and officially broke ground on Battell Beach for the new, long-awaited first-year dorm on Monday, June 26.
The dorm is for “the 21st century student,” according to Smita Ruzicka, vice president for student affairs, who spoke at the ceremony. The new 87,000 square foot, four story building will have 148 doubles and two singles, all of which will be fully accessible. All of the bathrooms will be gender neutral.
Such efforts demonstrate how Middlebury is “putting our money where our mouth is when we say that this campus is truly inclusive,” Ruzicka said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The projected completion date is spring of 2025, with students moving in the following fall.
The residence hall will also feature community spaces for students to gather, and study spaces for students and faculty to learn together.
These spaces will be a “game changer” in the first-year residential experience, especially coming after years of Covid-19 disrupting much of the community building that is integral to residential halls, according to Ruzicka.
The Middlebury Board of Trustees approved moving forward with the construction design in September 2021. There were some hurdles prior to being able to break ground, however, including acquiring the rights, permits and figuring out funding.
According to David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration, the price originally started at $40 million, then rose to $60 million, and after a lot of negotiation, settled at just over $50 million. The college will be going to the market within the next couple of weeks to look for public financing of the project, Provost added.
Pressure to speed up the process heightened as Battell, which houses 250 first-years during the academic year, continued to age. Upon completion of the new dorm, Battell, which has stood for almost 70 years, will be torn down and replaced with an art museum.
“Battell Hall is not getting any younger,” Provost said. “Every time I walked through it I was like, ‘we’re gonna have to start throwing good money at bad.’”
While the new dorm will add 48 new beds to Middlebury’s housing, it will not entirely solve the housing crunch the college has found itself in over the past few years.
As enrollment has grown from just above 2,500 to 2,858 in fall 2021 and 2,773 in fall 2022, more and more students have found themselves forced into the August housing draw — with some living at Breadloaf during the fall of 2021, and the use of the Inn on the Green the past two fall semesters. The college has also allowed more students to live off-campus, which has created friction with a number of town residents.
Katie Futterman '23 (she/her) is a Managing Editor.
Katie previously served as a News Editor and Staff Writer. This past summer, she was a news intern at Seven Days, and she held the same position at the Addison Independent the prior summer. In her free time, she loves to read, write, and bask in the sun.