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   Date: 4/5/10 Bookmark and Share

Space Reduction Proposal Presented at Campus Forum

Smith administrators recently presented a proposal for reducing the college's use of space by 5 percent or 150,000 square feet, as included in the $22 million budget reduction plan adopted last year in the wake of the global financial crisis.

At the April 1 forum, Vice President for Finance and Administration Ruth Constantine described the recommendations of the planning firm Bruner/Cott of Cambridge, Mass., for buildings that Smith could consider releasing either by selling, renting, leasing or demolishing.

Smith has 111 buildings – 45 of which are student houses, including undergraduate, graduate and commuter housing.

The space-reduction initiative follows a number of reductions already made by the college in positions, compensation, and programs, as well as the implementation of a set of energy-saving measures.

The Bruner/Cott study focused on buildings at the periphery of campus, evaluating them based primarily on location, but also considering their condition and cost of renovation.

Among the buildings that the firm recommended the college release are student houses: Parsons, Parsons Annex and the Friedman apartment complex, all located between Henshaw Avenue and Round Hill Road; Dawes House on Bedford Terrace; and 12 and 26 Bedford Terrace, both single-occupancy apartments for Ada Comstock Scholars.

The report recommended the college replace Friedman with new apartments and, consistent with recommendations from prior planning consultants, locating new student housing at the end of Paradise Road where Mason Hall and Sunnyside are currently located.

Other buildings recommended for release are: Garrison Hall on West Street; Tilly Hall and The Gables, located between Henshaw Avenue and Round Hill Road; and 27, 30 and 47 Belmont Ave.; and some buildings in the college’s rental housing inventory. In addition, Bruner/Cott recommended releasing all or a portion of the college’s Fort Hill property on South Street, not including the Center for Early Childhood Education.

As the second phase of its work, Bruner/Cott is now advising the college on how it might relocate the programs and functions in the affected buildings over a period of years. That phase of planning is expected to be completed by the end of April.

Students at the forum expressed frustration about the elimination of the student houses and apartments. As in the past, when the college has closed houses they are phased out over time. Students are allowed to remain in their residences until graduation.

“A reduction in student housing isn’t something we do lightly,” said Maureen Mahoney, dean of the college. “We know that these are homes that hold the memories of students and alumnae.”

Smith remains committed to offering a range of housing options, including apartments, suites, singles, doubles, and language-themed clusters, said Mahoney.

The proposal to reduce student housing was considered in light of the plan to stabilize the entering classes of traditional-aged students at 640. In the past, class sizes have varied.

Constantine emphasized that space reduction “isn’t going to happen overnight.” Each building presents a its own set of opportunities and challenges, and the real estate market will, to some degree, dictate the pace at which buildings are released.

Over time, when the selected reductions are completed, savings on maintenance expenses is expected to be about $1 million, with additional savings realized in utility expenses.

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