Mission Park to be renovated over summer

Bennington firm Centerline Architects has finalized plans for this summer’s largescale renovations of the Mission Park complex. The $6.9 million project will change the configuration of suite common spaces and improve the complex’s handicap accessibility and compliance with fire code requirements. Construction is scheduled to begin on May 27 and projected to be completed by Aug. 22.

Centerline also worked on last year’s renovation of the Mission dining hall and received an award from the Vermont chapter of the American Institute of Architecture for the project.

The company’s official goals for the new Mission project include “providing more daylight to dark corridors” and creating “gathering spaces [which] promote wider range of interaction among students.”

Most notably, the renovations will eliminate individual suite common rooms in favor of larger house lounges on each floor. Every four suites will have a lounge about the size of two dorm rooms, as well as a smaller “study lounge” equipped with internet jacks. Four staircases will be removed to provide for the additional common space.

To visually connect the suites with the lounges, the suite doors will be replaced with glass doors. Magnet systems in the doors will enable students to leave suite and stairwell doors open if they choose to do so.

The administration is hopeful that this new design will combat the suite isolation often cited as a significant detriment to the Mission complex.

“I can see this being very appealing to people coming out of their freshmen year, used to having communities of twenty students,” said Norma Lopez, assistant dean of the College.

Lindsey Hayes, community life coordinator (CLC) of Mission and Tyler, called the project a “culture change,” while Robin Malloy, manager of real estate and housing described the shift as encouraging “less of a suite mentality and more of a hall mentality.”

Cross-ventilation and suite lighting were two other major concerns. The glass doors will bring more light to the individual suites, and the stair design also allows for more cross-ventilation.“Daylighting has definitely been a goal throughout,” said Mark Chaney, one of the principle architects.

The plans also call for a number of smaller changes. The kitchenettes will be outfitted with new countertops, sinks and microwaves. Additionally, the building’s fire alarms, bathroom sinks, exit signs and stairway handrails will be replaced. Plans also call for reconfiguration of the laundry rooms and renovation of three suite bathrooms and public bathrooms for handicap accessibility. As a result of fire code regulations, alarm and sprinkler systems will also be updated.

Individual rooms will no longer be accessible by key, but rather by access code. Rooms will also be wired for t cable.

Despite significant changes to room technology access and common space configuration, few changes will be made to the dorm rooms themselves. However, as a result of the reconfiguration of common spaces, suite configuration will be slightly altered. Four-person suites will no longer exist, and about eighty percent of the suites will be for five people, with the rest for six or seven people.

The renovations include few changes to the exterior, though the general entrance will be rebuilt to facilitate handicap access. A pathway will replace the steps, and the hill will be reshaped to decrease its steepness.

With renovations, Mission’s capacity will increase from 294 to 306. However, without individual suite common rooms there will be no “swing space” for emergency housing.

Chaney cited Mission’s staunchly modern design as the biggest challenge in the project. While Chaney called the building “a very nice piece of modern architecture,” he admitted that the unconventional design was sometimes difficult to accommodate.

“Everything is so tight; it’s like it was designed by a computer, said Chaney. “To fit things in was a real challenge.”

Now, the few decisions left regarding the project involve furniture for the general lounges and the study lounges.

Floor plans for the Mission renovations will be available at this year’s room draw.

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