By Julia Purdy
RUTLAND—On Thursday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m. a large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at 121 West St. in downtown Rutland to celebrate the official opening and renaming of the Clement Building, now housing Castleton University students in two formerly empty floors. A broad green ribbon was drawn across the entrance and a paper scroll, tied with a green bow, was attached above it.
Castleton University President David Wolk, Mayor Louras, Green Mountain Power’s Steve Costello and developer Mark Foley, Jr., addressed the crowd before going inside to view three of the 16 student dorm suites and enjoy refreshments in the student lounge. Wolk opened with a “welcome to another Castleton dream come true—the Vermont version of an urban university experience.” He cited the ways in which Castleton has expanded into Rutland to date, with the Spartan Arena, Castleton downtown campus in the Opera House, the Castleton Polling Institute, and college administration. Noting that an increase in enrollment has filled the campus residence halls this fall, he said the development of the Clement Building “couldn’t come at a better time,” and he expressed his “heartfelt gratitude” to “the people who made this happen.”
Mayor Louras continued the theme, saying that the teamwork between Mark Foley, Jr., and Castleton exemplifies a community which “keeps ticking along regardless,” and he stated his appreciation for the civic commitment of those involved.
Costello highlighted the energy efficiency of the building, which is heated and cooled by a rooftop, “cutting edge” solar-powered air-source heat pump that will demonstrate “this technology can work.”
Mark Foley, Jr., voiced praise and gratitude for all the players who delivered high quality workmanship against a tight timeline, mentioning each professional, tradesman, supplier and contractor by name.
Just before the ribbon was cut, Pres. Wolk asked for Mark Foley, Sr., to come forward and then he unfurled the scroll, which depicted the building with its future brand-new sign, a vertical lozenge shape in Castleton green with white lettering that read “Foley Hall.” The Foleys and Wolk cut the ribbon with an oversized pair of paper shears at 4:29 p.m.
Mike Robilotto, director of residence life, was on hand upstairs to answer questions. He explained that the second and third floors had been gutted “to the bricks.” This gave NBF Architects of Rutland, who designed the complete remodel, a blank slate. Both floors were carved into suites containing from one to four single bedrooms, an efficiency kitchen, a single bathroom, and a small sitting area. Furnishings include beds, low bureaus and desks, a kitchen table, and built-in seating. The beds are adjustable-height and some students have put the low bureaus underneath to gain floor space. Wifi is available through the Castleton University network.
Students can decorate the new walls, as nail holes can be easily patched, the Robilotto explained.
The suites are like a small neighborhood, allowing both community and independent living, Robilotto continued. Castleton policies still apply regarding drinking, quiet hours, and privacy.
An on-site building manager, also a student, oversees the entire dorm and is trained as a community advisor. Daniella Doolen, Class of ’17, helps with programming, intervention and outreach. She anticipates fewer problems in the new dorm, due to less congestion and fewer students.
Three grad students were waiting on the sidewalk to get in the building. Eric Horsfield, a grad assistant in athletic administration with a Castleton B.A. under his belt, commented that the high ceilings “make everything feel a lot bigger.” He also especially appreciates the “quiet-close” kitchen cabinets for when he rustles up a late-night snack and doesn’t want to disturb his suite-mates. He loves the downtown location: “you can walk to everything,” he said, including Hop ‘N Moose, which is among his favorite local bars.
Brittany Batts of Leesburg, Va., is a graduate assistant coaching in the women’s basketball program. Having rented off-campus in Castleton, she would give the new dorm an “A”—the appliances are good, nothing is run down or broken.
Their friend Loic Soria of France is a grad assistant in track and field. He is used to urban living and doesn’t have a car. He, Batts and Horsfield all said they appreciate being close to opportunities for both eating, shopping, socializing and outdoor activities, whether Pine Hill Park for running and biking, Killington for skiing, or Johnny Boys and Clem’s for breakfast.
The dorm residents park at the West Street garage with a student pass.
Carol Sourdiff is a junior-year non-traditional student in the nursing program. For the last two years she has commuted three to four days per week from the house she owns in Waterbury, down Route 107 and over the Sherburne Pass in Killington. She said she asked for local housing last year but didn’t want a roommate, so the new suite suits her needs perfectly. It’s a corner location and she can see the beautiful sunsets over the Taconics from her room. She said she likes to hear the trains whistling at the West Street crossing and even the fire-station whistle twice a day.
Ralph Nimtz, architect with NBF Architects of Rutland, said the plan for the dorm was hatched in November 2015; the drawings needed to be approved, financing needed to be arranged, contractors and suppliers lined up. In April the project got the green light and had to meet the August deadline before students arrived.
Nimtz said, “The crew did an incredible job in a short period of time. It was almost a miracle. It means a lot to Rutland—people living downtown, shopping, eating, and saving a nice historic building.”
C.U. showcases new downtown Rutland dorms
By Julia Purdy