Design plans expected for renovation of original BCC buildings


PITTSFIELD -- Preliminary design plans are expected this month for major renovations to two original Berkshire Community College buildings -- Melville and Hawthorne halls.

John Law, the school's chief financial officer, said the design firm, NBBJ architects, is scheduled to give a presentation on the projects at the board of trustees' April 22 meeting. The state in October 2012 set aside funding for the $23 million project, which is expected to reach the construction stage during the summer of 2015 and be completed in 2017.

Most likely, the classroom buildings will be renovated one at a time, Law said, but that hasn't been specified at this stage. The renovations are expected to include creation of more attractive, open and dynamic learning environments, along with more efficient room spaces and sustainable or green building features.

Also among the options mentioned during public discussions earlier this year was a connector structure linking Melville and Hawthorne, which now are separated by a short walkway. A student lounge along that U-shaped connection is under consideration as well.

"This will have a tremendous impact on the campus," Law said, adding that the work will reflect a major step toward refurbishing the facilities at the state's oldest community college.

BCC's campus off West Street was begun in 1969 and completed in 1972, and the two rectangular classroom buildings will receive their first major overhaul since that time. Previously, the college, which opened in September 1960, was housed in the former Pittsfield High School building (now the Central Annex apartment complex), located off Second Street at the eastern edge of The Common.

Law praised the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick for spearheading "tremendous growth in buildings and [campus] infrastructure" in recent years. The funding for the BCC project was announced in 2012 as part of nearly $300 million earmarked for work at community colleges over the next five years.

In addition to the building renovations, BCC officials continue to "work hard to identify funding for paving needs," Law said.

Some of the road beds, lots, walkways and other surfaces date back to the original construction at BCC and are uneven or crumbling in sections.

Historically, the state has not invested in paving issues on campuses, Law said.

The college also recently received a report last week from its facilities and maintenance consultants, Sightlines, a firm that analyzes maintenance data for all of the Massachusetts community colleges, as well as hundreds of other institutions nationally, and provides benchmarking comparisons. BCC was a leader in the state in recognizing the need for accurate information on maintenance needs and how they meet best practices at other institutions, Law said.

When she was the chief financial officer at BCC, current President Ellen Kennedy identified that need, he said, and helped promote a practice now followed by the other community colleges.

In its recent report, Sightlines provided a series of comparisons among the institutions, ranking BCC last in grounds maintenance and low in other areas of maintenance compared to other community colleges here and in Connecticut.

The report noted that the average age of buildings was 40-plus years but that would fall by 20 percent when the planned renovations are completed.

To reach Jim Therrien:,

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On Twitter: @BE_therrien


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