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SUNY Oswego’s Waterbury Hall to take fast track to renewal

OSWEGO — Waterbury Hall, a 211-bed residence hall that opened in 1960 along the lakeshore at SUNY Oswego, will close to residents by Dec. 13, be emptied of all its contents by Dec. 22 and reopen in August 2015 after $8.8 million in renovations.

An $8.8 million project to renovate SUNY Oswego's Waterbury Hall will get under way during winter break. (King & King Architects rendering)
An $8.8 million project to renovate SUNY Oswego’s Waterbury Hall will get under way during winter break. (King & King Architects rendering)

In between, workers for general contractor PAC & Associates of Oswego will have added eight rooms, three kitchens, lounges on each floor and a solar chimney; made all floors, rooms and common spaces wheelchair accessible; rebuilt the restrooms in modern configurations; upgraded technology and mechanical systems; and installed new windows and a new entrance, roof and lakeside terrace and otherwise rehabilitated the exterior.

Furnishings will be new.

“It has a very aggressive construction schedule,” said Mitch Fields, associate vice president for facilities at SUNY Oswego. “Normally, this job would take one full year.”

The reason for the quick turnaround is capacity.

With about 4,300 beds in all, campus residential facilities are full thanks to two consecutive autumns of strong new-student recruitment and a variety of residential initiatives that have kept demand high among students for living on campus, said Rick Kolenda, director of residence life and housing.

Two more capacity-limiting renovations are on the horizon. Scales Hall, opened in 1961, is scheduled to close next winter on a similarly demanding construction schedule.

Behind Waterbury and Scales for renovation is Funnelle Hall, a mid-campus, 1965 high-rise, which is likely to need a two- or three-phase plan for the upgrades, according to Fields and Kolenda. It houses about 400 residents.

Kolenda said his office kept Waterbury under capacity this fall, allowing mainly single-semester residents — such as international students — to live there.

December graduation, off-campus moves and other attrition should leave a workable number of former Waterbury residents to place in other campus living options, he said.

College staff will move their possessions for them, and these students will have the option of returning to campus early to settle in for the spring semester.

Accessible, appealing

The end result will be a Waterbury Hall — and then a Scales Hall — with appealing and practical features.

“We are going to modernize them in a way that’s consistent with the rest of the lakeside community,” Fields said. “They will not only be brought up to date, they will stand out. We’re trying to get to an even standard across all the dorms.”

Tops on the list is accessibility. The contractor will widen the doorways of Waterbury’s rooms to 36 inches from 32, replace ramps and install additional ones inside and out, and add an elevator. Each restroom will have four pods, providing privacy for toilets and showers, two of them accessible.

“We are moving away from one public space for restrooms. This is a more agile solution,” Fields said.

King & King Architects of Syracuse, working with Facilities Services’ major projects unit, designed the project to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold standards of sustainability, he said.

One visible feature designed to save costs and energy will be an atrium-like entranceway that will serve as a solar chimney to pull in cooler air during warm months to the building’s upper levels.

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York is overseeing the project, but the college is paying from its reserves for Waterbury’s renovations, Fields said, obviating the need for bonding and increasing debt-service limits.

He and Kolenda said this should help limit rate increases for resident students.

“President (Deborah F.) Stanley is heavily committed to providing affordable, accessible education,” Fields said.

The building was named for Edwin M. Waterbury, a former editor and publisher of the Oswego Palladium-Times and chairman of the Board of Visitors (now the College Council). He helped Oswego evolve into a degree-granting teachers college in the 1940s.