Garage construction to start early; Thompson lot to expand

Preparatory work for the construction of the parking garage northwest of the current Greylock parking lot will begin on April 15. The garage will be built in large part to service the new theatre and dance performing arts complex. While the actual performance building’s plans have just been unveiled, and construction will not begin for some time, current plans call for the construction of the parking facility to be completed by the fall. The fencing for the project will reduce the capacity of the Greylock lot by twenty-nine student and eight faculty/staff spaces, which will be replaced with additional parking spaces elsewhere on campus.

The official start of the project was set for April 15 so that all necessary preliminary work will have been completed in time for the arrival of equipment and supplies. Actual excavation of the site then will begin May with the completion of the garage projected for the end of September.

The grass islands in the front of the Greylock dining hall and a portion of the lawn in front of Woodbridge House will be removed to create space for additional parking spaces. Four parking spaces also will be added onto the back side of the Admissions Office, creating a net loss of only six spaces. Students unable to find parking in Greylock will be permitted to park in the Brooks House lot using current parking decals.

The parking garage, which will have three stories and 234 parking spaces, has been designed to complement the theatre/dance complex, which is scheduled for groundbreaking in the following year. Once finished, the garage will be used by theater patrons during the school year and summer months. The administration has not decided whether or not a section of the garage will be allocated for student parking spaces. As town laws require the availability of a certain number of parking spaces for a structure of the theater’s size in order to prevent patrons from parking on local streets, and faculty will be given first priority for remaining parking spaces, student parking spaces may not be available.

The theater/dance complex project will be underway by next year, so the garage will be in a construction zone, which could reduce or possibly entirely eliminate the facility’s use for student parking for the duration of the construction.

“We do not want to promise something we cannot deliver and there are too many variables we still have to work out,” said Dave Boyer, assistant director of Security.

The administration is considering allowing students to park in patron spots during the week if students evacuate the spaces for the nights of performances, but fears that students might not reliably move their vehicles all the time could blockade such a proposal. The logistics of enforcing such a policy would also be expensive and cumbersome for Security.

The lack of a concrete decision on the issue of student access to the garage means that there is room for debate and student appeal. However, some students criticized the administration’s handling of the situation.

“What I also believe is happening here is lack of transparency and openness from the administration,” said Federico Sosa ’04, a student representative on the newly formed Parking Committee. “If they are going to build a parking garage, and they do not want students to use it, they should say so up front.”

Beyond current and future parking at Greylock, the construction of the garage in this location will have little effect on campus. The field located north of the Greylock quad is known by students as the Greylock swamp and is primarily used for informal recreational events and occasionally by the Williams Ultimate Frisbee Organization (WUFO).

The parking garage, which will be 400 feet long and 60 feet wide, will sit to the north of Gladden House adjacent to Whitman Street, which will be the main access for cars to the garage and the performing arts complex. While the structure will have three stories, two stories will be underground, leaving one story protruding from the ground. Cars will exit the garage onto Route 7, which should only slightly affect the traffic flow of the area.

The College’s committees in charge of the project have expressed great sensitivity to the aesthetic appearance of the structure from the outset. The new parking garage will be narrow, with only one lane of traffic and two rows of parking per level, and will curve along route 7 along with the contours of the landscape.

“The whole idea was to try and make this as innocuous as possible and to respect the landscape setting of the College,” said William Rawn of Rawn Associates, the architectural firm desigining the complex.

Unlike many modern parking structures, the garage will be constructed with bricks that will match the color tones of the Greylock dormitories and will be surrounded by trees. A belvedere, or a landscape overlook, will be situated on top of the building to allow the building to blend more into the landscape.

A 36-foot-long chiller plant used to provide air conditioning to the north half of campus, including the renovated Baxter and Stetson/Sawyer complexes renovation, will be attached to the north end of the garage.

“Each one (of the new projects) would have needed their own chiller,” said Bruce Decoteau, construction projects supervisor for the College. “This is more economical and maintenance-friendly.”

In addition to the physical concerns, the creation of the garage structure will require the implementation of new security measures. While plans have yet to be formalized, Security is developing requirements for monitoring the garage. “Our concerns obviously are lighting, access and communication,” said Boyer.

Sufficient lighting and phones will be located on each level. Boyer added that the garage would be the “perfect application” for video surveillance similar to the system used by the Williams College Museum of Art and considered for other areas on campus such as the OIT computer labs.

To inform students of parking changes, Mark Rosenthal, College Council (CC) co-president, will explain the construction project at the next CC meeting. Security also will contact the student body about the parking adjustments for the remainder of this year and next year via leaflets and email.

Many felt that the construction of the garage is a positive step in addressing the parking situation.

“I salute the construction of a parking garage,” said Henry Art, professor of biology. “The concept of having one is both healthy and will help preserve the amenities rather than destroy them.”

However, Art, like many other professors, students and active community members, expressed concern about solving parking issues with the creation of new spaces. Some people have suggested reducing the number of underclassmen allowed to have cars on campus or raising the price of parking permits from the $60 fee.

“With the insignificant exception of subsidized student parking permits, nobody in this town has to pay for parking,” said John Weiner ’02, who has conducted two environmental studies on the impact of parking on campus. “A good economist should be able to tell you that increasing the number of free parking spaces just leads to more driving and more traffic. Building more park
ing spaces is like building more freeway lanes. It does not solve the problem, it exacerbates it.”

Students also have conveyed worries of a snowball effect in the building of parking garages. Greylock may be the site of the first garage on campus, but the administration has discussed the possibility of building another garage at the Clark Art Institute as well as one with the renovation of Stetson Hall.

The garage’s projected cost is $5.6 million and the installation of the chiller is estimated at $4.2 million.

At a time when students have been ignoring campus parking regulations more and more, construction may intensify student’s disregard for parking rules. Peter Mazzacco, Sr., a day-shift security officer, finds that most parking offenses occur when students are unaware of parking policies and wanted to advise students “to read all the material that they get.”

Both Security and the local police monitor student parking in the community. In order to harmonize policies, as of March 28 the Williamstown Police Department has increased the overtime parking fine to $10 and has improved the administration of ticketing cars.

“Anything that can happen to create additional parking will help everyone,” said Arthur Parker, Williamstown chief of police, in response to questions on the impact of the new parking spaces. “Parking is a commitment we share together.”

Campus parking has been an issue of increasing concern for several years as more faculty and students wish to park their vehicles near their offices and residencies. During the first semester of 1999, students in Environmental Science 302, “Environmental Planning and Analysis Workshop,” researched the history of parking on campus, explored the developing problem and evaluated possible solutions.

At the conclusion of the study, the class recommended that the College “deprave certain small, central lots while expanding larger periphery lots,” adding that the College should attempt to alleviate the parking pressure by decreasing the campus’ constant reliance on cars. When considering a parking garage as an option, the study supported the concentration of parking but stressed the high cost of construction and maintenance of a garage and the importance of aesthetic appearance.

With the entrance to the Greylock lot from Whitman Street closed, students will enter and exit the new lot by way of the Adams Memorial Theater Drive, which now will serve as a two-way road. A temporary road to Whitman Street will be built by the end of June.

With future construction such as the Baxter project and Stetson renovation located near major parking lots on campus, the College will have to manage parking stresses for the next seven or eight years. In order to solicit student input, the College has formed a Parking Committee consisting of student representatives. Security also has been working with the College Council to help ease the situation and meet student needs.

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