Samuel Northrup, Editor-in-Chief
Utica College’s campus will see major additions over the next 18 months.
The college is slated to open three apartment-style student housing buildings, along with a 183-car parking lot to accommodate residents, by the fall of 2019.
The buildings will be constructed in a field located perpendicular to the Todd and Jen Hutton Sports and Recreation Center with the expectation from campus officials being this will eliminate the need to house students at the Ramada in New Hartford.
“We want our students to be on our campus, so we have to increase our capacity and also increase the choice,” President Laura Casamento said. “So, to have a nice, new, apartment-style residence hall where students can have singles if they want them, and have some amenities that they don’t have in other residence halls here, we just know that was important for our student body.”
Based on floor plans provided by UC, each three-story building will have four units containing four single bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and laundry space. All together, the new structures will provide 144 new beds for the campus. Two smaller structures, a community-space building and a maintenance building, will also be built on the property as well.
“When you look at upperclassmen housing, there are a lot of schools we compete with that have choices that we don’t have,” Casamento said. “So, they have these nice, apartment-style options that are new where you get a single, there’s a washer and dryer in the unit, there’s a full kitchen, it’s a real apartment-style complex that students are going to want to be in.”
Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Jeffery Gates explained the desire to have students all housed in the same general location was not only important to administrative officials.
“This is really meeting a student demand, that they want to be on campus and be closer to the [Student] Union, the fitness center, so we’ve heard that and this is going to really fill that need,” Gates said. “Certainly, this is going to take the 110 students who are slated for the Ramada and bring them to campus.”
Building costs, Casamento said, will range from $13 million to $14 million with one caveat: the college will not have to pay a cent.
The new buildings and parking lot will be developed as part of a private-public partnership with the Utica Municipal Housing Authority and Albany-based BBL Construction Services — Axiom Capital will provide initial funding for development. UC will lease the land where the buildings will be located, while the two housing entities will build and maintain the property.
To recoup their investments, room fees normally paid by students to UC will instead be collected and paid to the building companies. Once the cost to build is paid off, future payments from room fees will become profit.
Room costs have not been determined, but the price and annual increases will be established by the college, Casamento said.
For Robert Calli, executive director of the Housing Authority and a UC alumnus, giving students the opportunity to move back on campus, whether they lived at the Ramada or in private housing, is important “so they can experience the full educational, college experience.”
“I am an area native,” Calli said. “So it’s been nice to see the transformation of the college since I graduated. This is one additional step in that transformation and providing additional on-campus housing opportunities for the students.”
In addition to student needs, development will also take into account accommodations for neighborhoods surrounding the site of the new campus housing. Natural barriers, such as trees, along UC’s property line and facing building lights away from houses are part of this plan.
According to Gates, response from surrounding neighborhoods has been positive based on UC’s interactions in community engagement initiatives.
“They (residents of surrounding homes) are really pleased that it (renders of the future buildings) looks like a community building, it’s not just that traditional brick, high-rise residence hall,” he said. “It really takes into account where it is and what our neighbors want to see looking out their backyards that blends with the neighborhood.”
As of right now, per Gates and Casamento, construction will begin in either the late spring or early summer of this year.