Vermont Tech purchases building for expansion12/4/08

Building to house classrooms, dorm rooms

Dec. 4, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Since 2003, Vermont Technical College has been steadily scooping up retail and office space in Williston’s Blair Park. Now the Williston campus, which started with 37 students five years ago and now enrolls around 400, is growing again.

 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Vermont Technical College in Blair Park has expanded it’s campus with the recent purchase of 72 Helena Dr., the three-story office building pictured above. The first and second floors will be used for offices and classrooms, while the third floor will be re-built for student dormitories.

Vermont Tech recently purchased a three-story office building at 72 Helena Dr., located along Route 2A near its intersection with Route 2. The building stands across the street from Vermont Tech’s Blair Park campus.

Brent Sargent, dean of the Williston campus, said current occupants of the building, including Stelletta Hair Design and the Williston Mortgage Corporation, are welcome to remain and hopefully will do so for some time.

“We want to continue to lease that space,” Sargent said.

Vermont Tech purchased the building for $2.16 million from the Helena Drive Associates and Williston Corporation on Oct. 31. Representatives from the college will appear before the Development Review Board at its Dec. 9 meeting for a discretionary permit to convert office space to classroom and dormitory space.

Jack Daniels, Vermont Tech’s dean of admissions at the college’s Randolph headquarters, said the change-of-use permit would be the first step for making major changes to the building. He added the college received similar permits two years ago as it grew around its Blair Park campus.

“The process went smoothly before, so I expect it’ll go smoothly again,” Daniels said.

Sargent said the first two floors will eventually be used for more office space for college personnel, as well as added classroom space. He also said there’s talk of adding a small bookstore and fitness center in the future.

The upper floor will be converted into dorm rooms, according to Sargent. Most Vermont Tech students are commuters, he said, but the college needed to offer living space in light of its growing programs.

While a dorm design for the third floor has not been created, Sargent said he expects there will be enough room for 24 beds. He said the college is still a couple months away from putting a design out to bid.

The acquisition of the Helena Drive building is big step for the Williston campus’ planned growth. Currently, the Williston branch has around 400 students enrolled in classes, with potentially 25 more students starting in the spring semester. In the coming years, Sargent hopes to see the numbers increase to 700 or 800 students.

“We have a number of programs unique to this campus and unique to Vermont,” Sargent said.

Vermont Tech in Williston offers associate and bachelor degree programs in nursing, dental hygiene, diesel power, and computer, electrical and software engineering. The diesel power and dental hygiene programs are only offered at the Williston location.

Many of the students commute from all over Chittenden County, as well as Franklin, Addison and Lamoille counties, Sargent said.

Daniels said he’s looking forward to Williston’s growth and anticipates a long partnership with the town.

“We’re delighted to be in Williston,” Daniels said.