NORTH ADAMS -- Three pairs of large golden scissors snipped the ceremonial gold and blue ribbons outside Hoosac Hall at Massa chusetts College of Liberal Arts, as students and state, local and college officials celebrated the completion of $6.9 million in renovations at the residence hall.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for Hoosac Hall," Dianne Manning, MCLA director of residential programs and services, said during Thursday’s ceremony. "When I came to Hoosac Hall in 1980, I was the residence director of Hoosac Hall. So I started both my professional career and my MCLA career here at Hoosac Hall. It’s a great building. It’s always been a great building. But this project has just knocked it out of the park."
Over the last two years, the six-story building has been under construction, as crews added a new face and entryway to the building on its lowest level and added 14 new dorm rooms to its first floor, which once served as the lobby and entrance.
"In transforming this space, we created additional bed space for MCLA as we continue to strengthen and grow enrollment, but in a way that works for us," MCLA President Mary K. Grant said. "We took advantage, finally, of the beautiful views around us and created space for students to gather, to build community, to do schoolwork together and all the other things that you do as part of a living, learning community. This space really speaks to that."
"A big idea in a small space, I think, has yielded tremendous results for the students, now and in the future," he said. "This building is one of the earliest residence halls on campus, coming after Taconic Hall, which was torn down. It’s remarkable that sometimes, when working with these old buildings, you end up with something that is better than when the building was new. The new entrance is subtle, but still fully accessible to students and visitors."
He said the renovations were transformational not only physically, but also in the way that students have already begun to think of the building.
In addition to becoming the new entryway, the lower level, which once housed dining services and has since served as the Hoosac Harbor student lounge for the last dozen years, also hosts a kitchenette, a laundry room, a billiard room, several lounge areas, offices for the residence director and his staff of residential advisers, along with vending machines and a recycling facility.
The dorm has a 95 percent freshman occupancy rate and a 5 percent transfer and returning student occupancy rate.
Senior J. Cottle, of Boston, who lived in the residence hall as a freshman and later as a resident adviser, said he didn’t realize then what type of impact his time living in Hoosac Hall would have on his college career.
"The energy in this building in that first year was kind of inspiring -- it was a hopeful energy. It was exciting. It was fun," Cottle said. "It led to the creation of the ‘Hoosings,’ 10 freshmen who wanted to sing Christmas carols. Three years later, from those 10 freshman comes 57 members singing Christmas, a capella, Valen tine’s and gospel songs ... .
"For this whole process to metastasize and to see the potential this has and to feel the energy of this communal bonding is amazing. ... The potential for bonding has just increased. For one person three years ago to start a 10-person group that became so much more, image the potential this building has now."