Williams ready to build again

Saturday October 23, 2010

New England Newspapers

WILLIAMSTOWN -- The freeze put on major construction projects at Williams College two years ago is thawing.

President Adam F. Falk announced in a recent letter to the Williams community that the college’s Board of Trustees approved his recommendation to begin work on the new Sawyer Library in spring 2011.

"We’re very excited about getting the project going," Falk said. "I believe this an exciting moment for the college as a whole. The library is part of a plan that goes back a decade. Particularly, Hollander and Schapiro halls were built in anticipation of the new library being built, and the old Sawyer [Library] being demolished."

Hollander and Schapiro halls, formerly the South Academic and North Academic buildings, opened in September 2008. The renovation and alteration of Stetson Hall into the new Sawyer Library was scheduled to begin soon after, but the project was put on hold in October 2008 because of the recession.

"In many ways, we’re halfway through this project, and it’s critically important to finish," Falk said.

He said that during the summer he and the college worked hard to get philanthropic support for the project, and now can cover more than half of the project’s $80 million cost.

"Philanthropic support was essential. It couldn’t have happened otherwise," he said.

James G. Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, said that besides philanthropic support, the project will be financed through bonds.

"The times weren’t financially right two years ago, now they are. Part of it is the successful fundraising for half the cost of the project, and greater stability of the financial markets. Meanwhile, construction prices haven’t been going up recently," he said.

Kolesar said there has been little inflation during the past two years, commodity prices have become more favorable, and construction firms seem eager for the type of project the college is doing, "all of which suggests that pricing will be favorable."

Falk said the new Sawyer Library will provide more space for students to work together, and bring together books, technology and the college’s rare books collection in "a way allowing collaboration between the past, present and future that is just not possible now."

"It will transform the way students learn and study," he said.

In the Oct. 18 letter, Falk said Sawyer Library is expected to open in 2014.

"This will be followed by the razing of the current library building and the construction in its place of a new green space that will connect Stetson/Sawyer with the Paresky Center and the Frosh Quad," he said.

Besides the Sawyer-Stetson project, another project to remodel Williams’ Weston Field was also put on hold in October 2008.

Falk said that project is now being re-examined to ensure it meets the college’s needs.


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