By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Five 50-foot containers filled with student beds, night stands, desks, couches and a variety of office furniture began to arrive at the new 120-bed AVTEC dormitory building on Third Avenue Friday December 20th, to be unloaded and assembled on site over the next three days.
“By Tuesday of next week it should be looking pretty much like a ready-built facility. It’s been a lot of work on the part of a lot of people,” said AVTEC Director Fred Esposito.
The 35,500 square foot dormitory building has been completed on time, on budget, and was officially turned over to AVTEC Alaska’s Vocational Technology Center for occupation late this week. The handsome new dormitory building opens January 4th for the spring semester students to move into. It represents an immense improvement over the old dormitory AVTEC has had for the past several decades, and for those who will return for a second semester, much better than staying in hotel rooms.
It’s been an amazingly fast construction project—constructed by Cornerstone General Contractors Inc., of Anchorage, with pre-fabricated modular dorms which arrived by barge in Seward in July. Workers razed the old aging dorm building last winter, broke ground in March, and laid in the foundations. Since the modular units arrived, workers have been hooking them up together, roofing and siding the outside of the building, installing windows and flooring, and more.
On Thursday, there were only a few craftspeople remaining. This last couple of artists were credited with creating the shiny blue and emerald marbleized ground floor. A woman was squatting on the ground floor lounge above a circle. She had a dryer in one hand and paintbrush in another. She was building up thick blue layers of paint that was shortly to become AVTEC’s Alaska Flag logo.
Just off the main door, to the right of the cafeteria entrance, a new office space gleamed, awaiting furniture. Opposite it some comfortable chairs and couches would be for students to kill time, or wait to meet up with one another. The long, well-lit dorm hallway on the ground floor was yellow-themed, each with its own yellow door frame, and the occasional yellow tile embedded in the floor. The second floor hallway theme is blue, and the third floor hallway is a kind of mauve or purple.
Most of the dorms are private, although a few of them were reserved to accommodate two people, Esposito said. They’re very basic student rooms, modest to small in size, but in the near future each will be equipped with single beds, desk and chair. Each dorm room has its own small refrigerator, and one wall is taken over with tall wooden shelving, including a larger nook for a TV monitor. Each dorm shares a small bathroom with the adjacent dorm so students won’t have to wander the hallways to get to the common bathroom. The room’s best feature is probably the windows and the scenic views they show of the streets below and Resurrection Bay beyond, or Third Avenue and Mount Marathon beyond. The higher the floor you’re on, the better the view.
Each hallway floor has a small common room for the staff members or students to gather and socialize in, and then there’s a laundry on one floor, and various storage rooms and office spaces on the others.
Unlike in the old dormitory, the larger common rooms on each of the three floors give the building a comfortable, home-like environment, allowing the students to gather and relax, Esposito said. The former dormitory didn’t have dedicated spaces anything like them. The best is “Marathon Hall,” the two-story glassed room which, naturally, faces Mount Marathon. The enormous windows let in plenty of natural light, and afford exquisite Seward views. One end of the hall will feature couches and comfortable chairs, and a TV and video-game monitor and beyond, there will be game tables such as pool, Ping-Pong and foosball. The smaller common room on the third floor above the game area affords additional privacy for different groups of students. Its attractive glass divider wall features swimming salmon.
The new dormitory also joins with AVTEC’s student services building on Fourth Avenue so the students won’t have to go outside and around the block to visit the library, auditorium, gym and other recreation areas.
Esposito expects for AVTEC to realize considerable savings with the new dormitory building because of its higher efficiency standards that include thicker, better insulated walls, high-efficiency boilers and heat designed for each different space and regulated with a good digital control system. It also will have energy- efficient indoor and outdoor (LED) lighting.
On seeing the nearly-finished product, Esposito said; “Oh goodness I think it’s exceeded my expectations. The quality, the look and feel is I think outstanding. The build-quality on this facility is extremely high. I think the dorms are going to be solid, they’re going to be quiet, and very conducive to studies and to having a social life beyond the classroom that will make the AVTEC experience a memorable one for our students.”
The improved dormitory facility also will help AVTEC market itself to prospective students and to their parents, Esposito said. The state-owned vocational technology center has boasted some truly high-quality technical education programs, but the sub-standard housing has made it more difficult for them to market.
The director expects a good-size enrollment when new or returning students arrive next month.