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Westfield State makes progress on development projects

Date: 9/29/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Westfield State College (WSC) is at 104 percent on-campus occupancy with 80 more students living in two hotels in the city. The solution: build more student housing complexes.

The college announced last week that it has made significant strides to secure additional housing including a new on-campus residence hall, in addition to the WSC Foundation's contract with Boston Realty Associates to purchase and renovate 27 Washington St. into a 90-bed dormitory.

"This sale is an opportunity to move the Foundation's original project forward in a way the benefits multiple interests," Mary Larrivee, chair of the WSC Foundation, said. "Students will have new options for housing, the building will be returned to the tax roles, and the campus-community connection will continue to be strengthened."

Robert Ziomek, executive director of the WSC Foundation, explained that by selling the property, "the building can be renovated for student housing quicker than the Foundation and/or the college could."

The Washington Street property is scheduled to open next fall.

WSC is also working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to garner funding for a new 350-bed on-campus residence hall by 2015.

Barry Maloney, vice president of Student Affairs at WSC, explained that the eight on-campus dormitories have a design occupancy of 2,500 students; however, 2,800 students are living on campus including 130 forced triples (a room designed for two that now houses three people).

"Our yield numbers went through the roof," Maloney explained of the overcrowding. "Every college offers more [student] acceptances [than there is room to house] because of 'melt' -- accepted students that don't come -- [but this year] produced an additional 200 students that we didn't expect."

He noted that all those housed in off-campus hotels will be moved on campus for the spring 2010 semester.

Westfield State and the Foundation are also looking to develop student housing downtown in addition to the college's previous work in the area.

"To date, we have opened our art gallery in the Rinnova Building on Elm Street, expanded our Owl Bucks program, which generates an average of $20,000 per month for local businesses, and actively sought opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to provide community service when and where it is needed," WSC President Dr. Evan Dobelle said, adding that Barnes & Noble will open a satellite-campus bookstore and Starbucks Caf downtown next fall.

Maloney said the overall goal for WSC and the city is "to make Westfield a college town."