Construction crew continues work on Spring Street area

September 14, 2016 by Caitlin Ubl, Staff Writer

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Construction continues at the bottom of Spring Street for the new science center and bookstore. Emory Strawn/Photo Editor.

The College continues work on major construction projects including the new science center, bookstore, and inn.

The new science center, a $200- million and 178,000-square-foot building, will transform the face of the science quad by 2020. However, students will start seeing changes much sooner, as the new lab building south of Morley Circle is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018.

Even after the recent construction of the 132,000-sq.-ft. Sawyer Library, Fred Puddester, vice president for finance and administration, deemed the science center renewal project “the biggest project the College has ever undertaken.” 

The priority of the project is to rearrange and modernize the Bronfman space in response to requests for more classrooms from math, statistics and psychology students and staff.

The project includes the establishment of temporary classrooms on Stetson Court to allow those departments to operate at full capacity during the construction. Many math and statistics classes will move into Bascom Hall, the former admissions building, when Bronfman closes in 2018. At the conclusion of the project, the complex will house psychology, math, statistics, geosciences and other departments. Finance expects half the funds for the project to come from gifts and another tax-exempt $70 million from borrowing.

The sounds of construction will  resonate on Spring Street as well.  The $10.5-million project will include a two-floor bookstore, as well as apartments and offices on the third floor. The 15,000-square-foot building will also house a small café, which Tunnel City Coffee will operate until 10 p.m. nightly.

Follett, the company that currently operates Water Street Books won the bid to operate the bookstore area of the new structure. With a scheduled completion date of August 2017, students could be purchasing textbooks on Spring Street instead of trekking to Water Street by next fall.

Another well-known Williamstown institution, the Williams Inn, is set to undergo major changes. The new inn, which is in preliminary design stages, will be at the end of Spring Street, behind Lickety Split’s current location.

The project’s completion date is May 2019, and planners hope to incorporate an open concept and outdoor green space.

The Investment Office invests part of the endowment in real estate, and it anticipates a return from the inn comparable to that of other properties. This investment opportunity also benefits the Williamstown community, including visiting alumni, parents and other businesses on Spring Street.

Given the College’s plan to move the inn from its current location on Route 2 to the base of Spring Street, whispers of a potential local tragedy have been gaining volume and strength. Placating students’ fears, Jamie Art, Director of Real Estate and Legal Affairs, confirmed that Lickety Split will continue to operate on its normal schedule:

“By all accounts to date, they’ve had another successful summer season. Hopefully they’ll continue to operate on a seasonal basis in their current spot for as long as they are able, and we are working to include a home for them at the bottom of Spring Street as part of the inn project.”

The old inn will be demolished in 2019, and its location is being considered by a committee of students, faculty and staff for a new museum. As Puddester explained, many pieces of art in the Williams College Museum of Art are rented or borrowed from other institutions and require strict climate control. The current museum is not energy efficient, and it is becoming more difficult to meet these strict temperature and humidity regulations as the building ages.

The other site under consideration for a new museum is the dirt parking lot on Water Street. The committee will examine the advantages and drawbacks of each location and should reach a decision this semester.

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