College selects architect to plan replacement for Williams Inn

The College has selected the architecture firm Cambridge Seven Associates (C7A) to design the proposed inn at the base of Spring Street and has begun the process of consulting with neighbors and town committees about the viability of such a hotel.

The inn would replace the current Williams Inn, which is located on the outskirts of campus, across from the rotary.

“We want it to be a place where both people visiting want to stay and people who live here want to come as well,” Vice President for Public Affairs Jim Kolesar said. Currently, the Williams Inn hosts commerce-related events, United Way events, weddings, bar mitzvahs and community coalition events.
Kolesar said, “We want it to be nice but not fancy. You should feel that you are in Williamstown and at Williams College.”

The College purchased the current 128-room Williams Inn last Spring, when managers Marilyn and Carl Faulkner stepped down after 35 years.  At that time, Main Street Hospitality, a hotel management company, took over management of the inn.

In the early stages, the College, in consultation with Pinnacle, a hospitality advisory group, concluded that there is only a need for a hotel with 60 to 80 rooms as opposed to the 128 rooms the Williams Inn currently offers. With the exception of peak weekends, such as Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, many rooms are vacant year-round.

In the past few months, Kolesar and others have reached out to neighbors, town committees, the Williamstown Selectboard, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board about the feasibility of the proposed boutique hotel.

Kolesar explained that the owners of the two abutting households don’t have objections to the idea. “One neighbor was eager for it to happen because he wants to see additions to the tax role,” Kolesar said.

The proposed location is the space behind the current American Legion building, where the facilities’ barns are located. In order for the College to use this space, the town would have to vote in favor of an expansion of the Village Business District.

On Nov. 18, the town planning board will host a meeting to discuss the possibility of extending the line. If the planning board decides to propose the change, board members will report the proposal to the Selectboard. After holding a public hearing, the Selectboard will then decide whether or not to endorse the recommendation and whether or not to include it on the annual town meeting agenda, which will be held in May.

If approved, the College would allot 14 months for the design process and the following 18 months for construction.

A selection committee including several staff members and one member of the board chose Cambridge-based C7A from a number of candidates. In the past, the College has worked with C7A on buildings projects including Chandler Gym and the Bernhard Music Center.

Plans for the creation of a Spring Street Inn are part of a multi-pronged effort to refresh Spring Street. Other projects related to this initiative include renovating the Log and building a College bookstore.

“We want to create a sense of physical draw down there,” Kolesar said. “To show that there is a sense of life at the bottom of the street. To have people around on any day that are being fed onto the street would be really helpful [for the other businesses].”

At this time, there are no concrete plans to repurpose the lot now occupied by the Williams Inn when the new hotel is constructed.

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