If you are on your way to an early morning class in the northwestern area of Keene, or live anywhere near Ralston St., you have probably been waking up to the penetrating sounds of construction in the mornings.
Arcadia Hall will be the newest off-campus housing complex. Nestled on the corner of Ralston St. and Emerald St., the apartment complex will hold about 140 students all together. This project is being executed independently; Keene State College had no input in size or location.
All the construction work is being done by Saloomey Construction of Otis, Mass.
The land and apartments are owned by J. Chakalos Investments of Windsor, Conn.
Chakalos Investments regularly hires Saloomey Construction to do their building and renovations, according to John Chakalos, owner of J. Chakalos Investments.
According to Chakalos, the total cost of the new complex will be about six to seven million dollars and the project should be completed spring of 2012.
Unlike some other off campus housing options, Arcadia Hall is being constructed as a dormitory, having suites instead of isolated rooms. Arcadia Hall will be specifically designed for students.
“Each suite will contain four rooms, and there will be 38 suites total,” Mike Bergeron, project manager of Saloomey Construction said. “The number of people on the job site varies day to day, but about 100 people are working on it all together.”
Geography professor Chris Cusak oversaw a study done in 2008 that compared student-rented homes to family-owned homes in the southeastern triangle of Keene, between Gilbo Ave. and Winchester St.
Keene State students in the area made up 20% of the neighborhood population, but their houses contributed to 50% of all code violations and offense.
Cusack explained that the students were not completely at fault.
“It could have been a door was knocked off or down, and if the landlord is from Connecticut or whatever, who would know? People thought things would work out okay, to that end things have not really improved in that neighborhood,” said Cusack.
The increase of off-campus housing is nothing new. Jay Kahn, the vice president of Finance and Planning, said that talks of new housing were in development for over a year and a half.
“We held focus groups in April of 2010 to determine what the students wanted in terms of off-campus housing. There are about 2,000 students that are not housed on campus, and are constantly looking for off-campus housing,” Kahn said.
Arcadia Hall is a part of the newly declared S.E.E.D. district, the Sustainable Energy Efficient District. The S.E.E.D. district is located between Gilbo Ave. and Winchester St.
Kahn added that Arcadia will abide by the S.E.E.D. district guidelines, such as energy efficiency, a yearly inspection by the fire department, and live-in management.
“Good urban design doesn’t re-use single family homes for multi-family dwellings, as is needed by college students or other young un-related people. Good urban design tries to create living communites that don’t require as much land, and can provide more central services directly on site,” Kahn said.
Kahn also stated that Arcadia Hall may move more students out of homes, allowing families to move back into neighborhoods now occupied by college students.
However, Cusack stated that the economy will prevent families from buying up homes in Keene.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think Arcadia Hall will suck students out of other neighborhoods. When people bought some of these houses in 2005 and 2006, the market was much better. If they were to try to sell their houses now, they will take a huge loss,” Cusack said.
Cusack added that Arcadia Hall might increase competition among landlords, forcing them to renovate college-rented homes in order to keep up with new apartment complexes.
“We gave Chakolas Investments a tour of Pondside II last spring. In terms of what students like on our campus, it was a good place to start,” said Kent Drake-Deese, director of Residential Life.
Drake-Deese also added that because Arcadia Hall is in such a centralized location, it will inspire other landlords who are “not the best” to improve their properties.
James Niedzinski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org