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Trustees commit to college village

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Yellow Springers voiced excitement last year over the idea of creating a village community on the Antioch College campus. And both village and college community members generated a host of potential neighborhood designs during a public charrette last spring focused on how a college village might function.

Last week the Antioch College Board of Trustees turned the Antioch College Village concept into a commitment. The board agreed to establish a task force “to identify equity and development partners” to move ahead in developing its intergenerational housing scheme, according to a release from the college last week.

“The board green-lighted the project, saying yes, we want to do this. The charrette was very valuable and generated many good ideas. At this time, we have a good idea what the project will look like, but many details are still up in the air, such as how exactly the project will be funded,” Matt Desjardins, communications director for the college, said this week. “The Task Force will convene to work out those pieces.”

Various groups and individuals from the local community have remained engaged in discussions about the college village since the charrette. Don Hollister is part of a group that is exploring the possibility of co-housing (cooperative condominium or apartment housing with some shared amenities, such as a common kitchen and laundry facilities) on or near campus. He said this week that he was inspired by the resolve of the Antioch trustees to embrace a new paradigm in higher education.

“I’m enthusiastic and surprised at how bold the board is — they’re viewing this as more than a way to monetize their assets,” Hollister said. “They’re saying, hey, people who want to live on the Antioch campus and participate in the Antioch community can do so. It’s changing what college is.”

The board hasn’t yet decided on details about what the housing will look like or how it will function. But the trustees have committed to principles that came out of the spring charrette to increase stability for the college, exemplify environmentally sustainable living and enrich the community culture. For the college, for example, the college village would contribute to the school’s financial sustainability and link adult learning to participation in college life. For the environment, the college village would maintain a carbon-neutral energy profile and support sustainable farming and food production practices. And for the wider community, the college village would provide an active, healthy place for a diverse, multigenerational population to evolve in connection to each other, the town and the local economy.

According to Frances Degen Horowitz, chair of the Antioch College trustees, the board supports bringing the college and the village into closer cultural proximity.

“The Board believes that the Antioch College Village represents a wonderful opportunity to create additional housing in Yellow Springs while further integrating the town with the college. The Task Force we authorized will begin to assess the best way to move forward with this important project.”

The charrette yielded much input on what is now conceived as the phased construction of 160 affordable and market-rate housing units that will be available for rent or purchase on the western portion of the Antioch College campus. The connected units would have their own solar energy and water filtration systems. According to a recent press release from the college, the project will require “a sizable upfront investment,” which the advancement staff has begun working to define, Desjardins said this week. More information on the project will be available in 2016, after the some of the financial specifics are better known, he said.

“When the charrette occurred, there was resounding interest and people thought it was such a good idea that they were ready to start living at Antioch right away,” Desjardins said. “But the board recognizes that it will take hard work and a lot of listening, and the real question is in the financial piece.”


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