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Williams College Issued Tax-Exempt Bond for New Library

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College has secured its funding to build a new Sawyer library.

MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority, has issued a $89.21 million tax-exempt bond for the project , which has been on hold since 2008. Building a new Sawyer library is part of the $128 million Stetson-Sawyer project that includes razing the current library and rebuilding it on a renovated Stetson Hall. Construction is expected to begin in June, with the new library opening in 2014.

"The recent bond issuance made it possible for the college to move forward with this important project," Williams College Director of Communications Angela Paik Schaeffer said in an e-mail Wednesday. "While a groundbreaking date hasn't been set, we do plan to start the project later this spring, sometime soon after commencement."

A bond will help pay for the new library, improvements to the football field and track and field facilities, and renovatations to Chapin Hall, with a goal to stimulate economic growth. The college fits the tax code's eligibility requirements because it serves a public purpose as an institution of higher education, Kelsey Abbruzzese of MassDevelopment said.

"Williams College has a proud tradition of academic and athletic achievement in the Berkshires," said MassDevelopment Executive Vice President of Finance Programs Laura Canter in a statement. "Supported by low-cost financing, the college will improve its facilities and continue to provide its students with cutting-edge education. MassDevelopment is pleased to support both the commonwealth’s higher education institutions and its vibrant western region through this investment."

The new library will become the campus's main library and host information technology services, meeting and classroom areas, a cafe and computer labs. It will also host the campus archives and Chapin Library of Rare Books. It's projected to stand five stories and extend out from the sides of Stetson; however, architects have tried to keep it low profile compared to the other buildings.


The current Sawyer location will be left for green space between the Paresky Student Center and two office and classroom buildings that have been built as part of the project.

Originally planned to open in summer 2011, the estimated $80 million project was delayed by the Williams trustees in 2008, when constructed was expected to begin. According to a letter from President Adam Falk, the project was put on hold because of the recession but with recent support more than half the total cost has been raised, triggering his recommendation to proceed.

Schaeffer said Wednesday that additional philanthropic support had reached a level – about half of the total project cost and not necessarily earmarked for the construction – that gave the college confidence to continue.

"We are delighted to be able to move these important projects forward and greatly appreciate the important role MassDevelopment played in the successful issuance of the bonds," said Williams College Provost and Treasurer Bill Lenhart in a statement.
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