Where Are They Now?

Status report on some Act 250 projects

by Tom Gresham

Steel rises for Middlebury College's Atwater Commons.

In our May 2003 issue, we published a rundown of 2002's approved Act 250 applications with costs higher than $250,000 in Chittenden, Washington, Orange, Lamoille, Franklin, Grand Isle and Addison counties. We thought we'd check up on a few of the largest (in price) projects to see how they're doing. Here, then, is a quick status report on: Middlebury College's Atwater Commons ($24.95 million) and its library ($30 million); Trapp Family Lodge's common-interest ownership villas ($18.55 million); The Howard Center for Human Services' construction of a new home for the Baird Center ($6.15 million); and St. Michael's College's Hoehl Welcome Center ($4.77 million). Note that these figures are for construction costs and might not include expenditures for design, furnishings and other amenities.

Atwater Commons, Middlebury CollegeAlong with Atwater Commons, Middlebury College's three-story library is expected to be completed by fall of next year.

Construction is expected to be complete on the award-winning addition in the fall of 2004. The project will serve to supplement existing halls with the construction of three new buildings around a common green.

Atwater Commons is one of five residential complexes at Middlebury.

Two of the new buildings will serve as residence halls, providing 154 beds for seniors. The residence halls feature living rooms, full kitchens, seminar rooms, and study and laundry facilities.

The third new building will be a dining hall and a lounge. The dining hall has an elliptical shape. A rooftop garden should be a popular spot in the warm months. Beyond the obvious use of dining, the facility will also host social events for the Atwater Commons students. Seating capacity for the hall will be 225.

Work is concurrently proceding on a 143,000-square-foot library for the college. The three-story structure, which has a $30 million price tag, is also expected to be completed by fall 2004.

The cost of building the Atwater Commons project is $24.95 million. Its design was recently selected for an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects-Pennsylvania, praising the project's architects, Kieran Timberlake Associates, for achieving a balance "comfortably on the threshold between modernity and tradition."

The AIA praise said, "The jury found these buildings to have a Yankee toughness well suited to their traditional context and yet to be relaxed and playful. Their design is simple, tough and at home in New England, without being literal in its specifically historical references. ... They use traditional, indigenous materials, such as the stone, to say something new."

As part of the project, representatives of Middlebury College made an offer to the Middlebury Planning Commission to turn the existing Atwater and Davis Halls, currently student residence halls, into non-students uses possibly faculty offices. The offer was made to appease nearby residents who have complained about student noise from the residence halls.

In an edition of the Middlebury Campus, a student weekly newspaper at the college, facilities planning project manager Tom McGinn said the harshly cold winter of 2002-03 had slowed construction but not enough to postpone the expected completion in time for the 2004-05 academic year.

One surprise presented an interesting challenge, said Mark Gleason, the college's project manager. "When we were excavating at the site, we came across some voids, or holes, in the rock something that couldn't have been found from any site investigation. We had a geologist come out and take a look at it. It was a real surprise to all parties.

According to Gleason, the voids, or holes, were caused by weathering and water flow through them for thousands of years. "There's caves not too far away, he said, "and it's probably part of the same formation."

The voids were full of clay, which was removed and replaced with concrete.

The Villas at Trapp Family LodgeArchitect's rendering of The Villas at Trapp Family Lodge.

Two of the 40 units planned for construction at the Stowe resort have been completed and are expected to be occupied by Christmas, according to Treg Boerger of Trapp Family Lodge. Boerger said two more villas should be finished by mid-February.

Construction began in May on the project, which has an estimated cost of $18.55 million. Boerger said the expected length of the project is approximately five years.

"As with any large construction project, there have been lots of ups and downs," Boerger said, "but things are basically going along as planned."

When completed, The Villas will form an exclusive private residence club. Owners of each villa will have access to the resources of the Trapp Family Lodge, a 116-room lodge and ski touring center.

Both whole and fractional ownerships are available at The Villas. The fractional ownership opportunity follows a nationwide trend among resort locations, according to Boerger. The program allows buyers to purchase a one-twelfth share of a villa. The share will give the buyer access to the villa four weeks each year. The price for a share will range from $86,000 to $220,000, depending in part on the value of the weeks that an owner purchases with the villa.

Boerger explained that the fractional ownership club allows people to purchase a second home without bearing all the cost. He said the program falls somewhere between full ownership and time-sharing.

Boerger reported that shares in the first four villas are almost sold out.

As fractional owners in a private residence club, villas' owners will also have access to the Abercrombie & Kent Registry, a global exchange and concierge service. Through the exchange, owners could trade allotments of time at their villas for such amenities as a yacht or jet charter, a luxury cruise or seating at a notable sports event.

Each 2,500-square-foot villa features two master suites with king-size beds and one guest room with two double beds. There are also 31/2 deluxe baths, a great room with wood-burning fireplace and surround-sound system. The villas also include central air conditioning, a gourmet kitchen, a spacious dining room, a screened-in porch, an attached garage, and personal storage units in the basement. The Burley Partnership is serving as architect for the project.

Baird CenterA July progress photo of work on the Baird Center, expected to be ready for initial phases of occupation in November.

Construction on the much-needed new home of the Baird Center for Children and Families is about 80 percent complete. Staff of the Baird Center, a division of the Howard Center for Human Services, hope to move into the new facility in phases beginning in November. Gail Rosenberg of the Howard Center said the move is expected to take place over about five weeks.

The new facility is located on the southern end of the Baird Center property on Pine Street in Burlington. It will be 54,000 square feet, double the size of the current Baird Center, which will be demolished to make room for athletic fields and extra parking once the move to the new building has been completed.

Rosenberg said the larger home will result in significant improvement in the way the Baird Center delivers its services. The center has been located in the same building in Burlington since 1960, and the number of children and families served by the center has quadrupled to 4,500 since its merger with the Howard Center in 1994.

The project cost of $7.5 million includes the building's construction ($6.15 million) and so-called "soft" costs, such as impact fees, design, permits, furniture, etc., said Rosenberg. Funds came from the Baird Center's capital campaign, the first in its history, which raised $4.66 million; the remainder was financed by bonds.

One element of the Baird Center that should particularly benefit from the new building is the school the center offers to children with serious emotional and behavioral challenges. The school provides classes for 45 children; the new facility will have one more classroom, allowing the center to accommodate children on the waiting list. Also included in the new facility are art, music and computer rooms and a library. Instead of the 16-by-30-foot room that now passes for a gym, the students will have access to a middle school–sized gym in the new Baird Center.

"When people with the Baird Center school go inside the gym and see it, they just well up with tears," Rosenberg said. "It's very exciting."

Rosenberg said staff at the Baird Center have been forced over the years to move a portion of its services out of its main facility, in some cases into temporary trailers. She said the new facility will allow all the center's programs to be housed under the same roof.

The building will feature substantial space for meetings and training a marked change from the current facility, according to Rosenberg. For instance, she said, the more than 50 school social workers the Baird Center provides to Chittenden County schools will be able to comfortably meet and collaborate at the center.

Rosenberg said the large increase in space will not lead to an immediate jump in employees or in the children and families the Baird Center is able to serve. She said cutbacks in state and federal spending will prevent any potential increase in services for the time being.

Hoehl Welcome Center, St. Michael's CollegeThe Hoehl Welcome Center at St. Michael's College opened in time for the current school year.

St. Michael's College's friendly new welcome center opened in time for the school year.

The Hoehl Welcome Center was completed over the summer and inhabited soon after by its tenants, largely a mixture of admissions and marketing staff for St. Michael's. The center will serve partly to greet prospective students and their families.

"It's a beautiful building," said Buff Lindau, director of public relations at St. Michael's. "There's a high level of detail and finish. We worked with the concept of making this a real showpiece for the college and it's going to be one."

According to Lindau, the building features a "huge, beautiful entry room" where prospective students can gather to watch videos promoting the college and to meet guides for campus tours. The building, near the college chapel, will also house a large meeting room for group sessions with admissions staff and prospective students. A series of smaller rooms will allow for private, face-to-face interviews.

Furthermore, the Hoehl Welcome Center will host the regular meetings of the St. Michael's board of trustees. Admissions officers will use the offices on the second floor, while marketing and special events staff and a campus webmaster work out of first-floor offices. Previously, the elements now housed in the welcome center were sprinkled around campus. An important aspect of the welcome center is that it brings a collection of natural neighbors together in one building, said Lindau.

The idea for the center originated with Robert Hoehl, a 1965 graduate of St. Michael's and a co-founder of IDX Systems Corp. Hoehl donated $2 million toward the project, which took only a year to complete at a cost of $4.6 million. Lindau described Hoehl's vision as creating "a sort of living room for the rest of the property."

The attention to detail in the new building extends to the furniture. Lindau said red oak was removed from college property behind the St. Michael's observatory building. The wood was chosen based on its value in managing the forest, Lindau said. The red oak was milled in Marshfield and transformed to elegant furniture by Beeken-Parsons in Shelburne.

"It was a real Vermont project," Lindau said.

Lindau said the Hoehl Welcome Center, which overlooks Mount Mansfield, is visible from Vermont 15 in Colchester. Visitors can access the center from the campus's east entrance.

Originally published in October 2003 Business People-Vermont