Home Sweet Home (Part 2)
By Geoff Williams, University Archivist
y the early 1960s, noted architect Edward Durrell Stone was designing and building the first of the University at Albany’s uptown campus dormitory complexes. Dutch Quadrangle was partially occupied in Fall 1964, two years before courses were held on the new campus.
In many ways, the uptown campus dorms were similar to those on Alumni Quadrangle. All had communal spaces where students could congregate, but rooms were now gathered around central suites. Each suite had an individual washroom, rather than shared bathrooms down the hall. (The Indian Quad low-rises, the exceptions, are now being remodeled to include en suite bathrooms.) Gone, however, were such amenities as the beautiful molding that characterized Alumni Quad, as the pressure to build on a massive scale as quickly and inexpensively as possible meant the elimination of molding and woodwork. The Stone dormitories would be the last residences to have dining halls. By 1972, the last of the uptown campus residence hall complexes, Indian Quad, was completed.
No new construction of residence halls or academic buildings would take place on the campus until the late 1980s. While there were many reasons for the halt in construction – including the ’70s decline in student enrollment and periodic New York State fiscal problems – one major reason was repaying the bonded debt that Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had accumulated while expanding every campus in the SUNY System simultaneously. In the mid-1960s, University President Evan Collins required every fraternity and sorority to sell, or give up the lease on, its house and relocate residents to the uptown campus dormitories. Fully occupied dorm rooms paid off the quadrangles’ construction.
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The Greeks’ move to campus would have long-term consequences, though. The anti-establishment atmosphere of the time made it difficult for the Greeks to fill dormitories, and most of the groups disbanded. A grouper law imposed in the mid-’70s prevented fraternities and sororities from having houses in Albany, and the era of small-group housing owned or rented by the organizations and the school was over.
The housing situation retained the status quo until 1988, when Freedom Quadrangle opened across Fuller Road. Projected to cost $6.8 million, Freedom Quad represented a distinct departure from all former housing at the school. Driven by demand for more amenities in student housing, the project represented the first campus residences based on an apartment model. Each unit had a fully equipped kitchen. Arranged in four clusters of buildings, Freedom Quad provided accommodations for 410 graduate and upper-division undergraduate students.
An even more ambitious project, the apartment-style Empire Commons, opened in 2004. The complex, consisting of 26 buildings on 25 acres on the western side of the campus, houses 1,200 graduate and upper-level undergraduate students. Each building designated for undergraduates has 12 four-bedroom, two-bath apartments.
Graduate accommodations include four bedrooms and four baths per unit. All Empire Commons apartments include kitchens, living rooms, and washers and dryers. A commons building houses exercise and mail facilities, vending rooms, staff offices and meeting areas. All rooms provide high-speed Internet access – an amenity since retrofitted into older residence halls at considerable expense. The $59 million cost of Empire Commons’ construction was funded through tax-exempt municipal bonds.
UAlbany’s newest student housing, Liberty Terrace, built at a cost of $66.2 million, continues the trend of apartment-style living. The 500-bed complex, which opened in Fall 2012 on the east side of the campus, overlooks the pond behind Indian Quad. A typical apartment layout features four single bedrooms and two baths. Liberty Terrace has a number of commons areas. Like Empire Commons, it includes weight rooms, which are being retrofitted into all uptown housing. UAlbany’s Student Housing Corporation manages the complex.
Although much smaller than Empire Commons, Liberty Terrace affords “swing space” to house students while older uptown-campus dormitories – the oldest opened nearly 50 years ago – can be gutted and remodeled. The complex also boasts another distinction: It’s environmentally sustainable. Equipped with a geothermal heat-pump system, Liberty Terrace is expected to reduce energy and water usage by 50 and 45 percent, respectively.