This morning, Williams College announced to faculty and staff that the building housing the Williams Club of New York will cease its operations on June 1. The Williams Club has served the College community at its current address since 1913. According to Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, the board of governors for the Williams Club came to its decision based on the financial insecurity of the Club’s operations.
The College took ownership of the Williams Club building last spring and eventually plans to sell the property; according to Kolesar, the property has an estimated value of $21 million.
Mike Reed, interim vice president for alumni relations and development, explained that historically, the College has always sought to subsidize the operations of the Williams Club. Though the gift of the property to the College last year was meant to repay some of the in-kind support the College has provided, the facility, hotel and restaurant costs of the Club remain unsustainable. “The decision has everything to do with the club trying for a very long time to maintain a very small hospitality business in downtown Manhattan,” Kolesar said.
Current Williams Club members and alumni who wish to join will be able to take advantage of Williams Club memberships at the Princeton Club in New York, which already provides services to Columbia and New York University alumni. According to Reed, the Princeton Club was chosen for a number of reasons, including: Princeton’s “similarity in terms of alumni engagement and historic alumni support,” its shared characteristics as a prestigious liberal arts institution and the fact that the Princeton Club already has a model for incorporating alumni from other colleges and universities.
Kolesar said that the decision to cease the Club’s operations was made a month ago, and that the College waited to announce the news on campus until various groups of involved people were informed. Williams Club staff were notified yesterday afternoon. Kolesar added that the decision was timed to coincide with the period when Club members pay their annual dues.
According to Reed, the College will wait to put the building, which is on 39th Street, off of Madison Avenue, on the real estate market until an “opportune time,” taking into account such factors as the cost of maintaining security for the empty building. “We’ll do everything we possibly can to make this a smooth transition,” Reed said.