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College eyes homes on campus

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Never short on vision, Antioch College hopes to create a residential community that’s unlike anything now existing in this country. Specifically, it seeks to build on campus multigenerational housing that’s both fully green and fully integrated into campus life.

And the college wants villagers to help design the project. Toward that end, it is hosting a charrette for five days in March, including several events during which public input will be solicited.

The charrette is “an intense, collaborative design exercise,” according to consultant Sandy Wiggins, who is overseeing the effort, that aims to elicit new ideas and desires for the 160-unit project, called Antioch College Village. All interested persons are invited. And the five-day event has a goal.
“We will come out of this with a plan,” Wiggins said.

The charrette, which takes place March 1–5, will kick off with a hands-on open design session Sunday, March 1, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Wellness Center on campus. Present at the event, besides Wiggins and college leaders, will be representatives of the design firms Biohabitats Inc., Integral Group and Consilience, who will help to gather participants’ ideas. On the following three days, the designers will be available in an open design studio from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Wellness Center, during which interested persons are invited to stop in and provide input. And on Thursday, March 5, the designers will present the completed draft design at a public wrap-up session.

Following the event, the design draft will go to the Antioch College Board of Trustees to determine whether the project gets a green light to proceed, according to Vice President for Finance and Operations Andi Adkins in a recent interview. And if it does, the college aims to break ground within three years.

“But we’d love to do it sooner,” Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt said.

A generational yearning
The concept of creating housing on the Antioch College campus has been bumping around in Roosevelt’s mind for some time, he said last week. He believes there is a “niche market” of people who are seeking a living situation that isn’t currently available, and that the college could provide.

Specifically, Roosevelt, who is 59, believes there is a generation of Baby Boomers who are ready to downsize but not yet ready “to be put out to pasture.”

“These are people who don’t want to be isolated, who want to be valued for their knowledge, who want demands made of them,” he said. “I believe it’s a generational yearning.”

And while the initial focus of the potential project was this market of younger Baby Boomers, a feasibility analysis has broadened that market. A 10-month effort last year to determine the feasibility of the project revealed that many younger people, including young singles and families, would also be interested in living on the Antioch College campus, according to Wiggins.

The analysis showed that “there is significant interest from different demographics and different parts of the country,” Wiggins said.

Greener than others
What has sparked interest are two aspects of the Antioch College Village project that are not found elsewhere, according to Roosevelt. First, the residential community would be fully integrated into campus life, as opposed to other college housing communities that are tangential to the campus. While it’s not completely clear yet what that integration means, it could include integration into the college curriculum and activities, Roosevelt said.

The second unique aspect would be housing that is greener than almost anything currently existing, according to Wiggins, who specializes in sustainable development and is the former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Most of what’s considered “green” in construction these days, including the highest standard of LEED building, is simply “less bad” than traditional construction, Wiggins said. However, the Antioch College Village developers aim for something that “actively contributes to the vitality of the ecosystem,” he said, using the newly articulated Living Community Challenge standards created by the Living Future Institute. These standards require that buildings produce all their own energy, are completely nontoxic and that materials are sourced from as close to the building site as possible, Wiggins said.
While Antioch College Village developers would seek to make all residences equally green, the feasibility study revealed that people interested in living there seek a variety of living situations, including rentals, occupant-owned townhouses and co-housing with some shared facilities. Consequently, the Antioch project would attempt to combine all of these models, according to Roosevelt.
“Diversity would be the hallmark,” he said.

To be workable, there would need to be a minimum of 160 units on campus, according to Wiggins. Those units would likely be scattered on various campus areas that are currently open or are the sites of buildings scheduled to be torn down, such as the old Fels building and the student union. Some possibilities for Antioch College Village sites are the block between East South College and East Center College, the site of the former college infirmary, the site of the Fels building and the area north and west of the former student union, along with the site on which the union currently stands, according to Adkins, who is the college administrator overseeing the project.

But many of these decisions are down the road, and the charrette is aimed at further clarifying how and where the Antioch College Village would work.

“Should there be cars? No cars? Shared kitchens? What about academics?” Roosevelt said, describing some of the questions that could be considered at the March charrette.

Possibilities are open, he said, because “the product we’re talking about building doesn’t yet exist anywhere.”

Income for college
A purpose of the Antioch College Village is to enhance the economic sustainability of the college.
“It’s generational revenue sharing,” Roosevelt said. “The concept is that adults living in community would provide some economic support for students.”

Because it’s not yet clear what shape the residential community will take, it’s also not known how it will financially support the college, with possibilities including income from property sale, income from rentals, or fees for the use of services, Roosevelt said.

The need for a new revenue source is clear because most colleges rely on tuition and endowment income, both of which are weak income sources at Antioch. Currently, the college is surviving on donations, an economic model that cannot last, Roosevelt said.

“We have to do something that Antioch College has never been good at, and that’s making money,” Roosevelt said. “But research says it’s possible.”


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