RPI plans to convert hotel into dorm space

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute officials announced Tuesday details of the college’s plan to lease

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute officials announced Tuesday details of the college’s plan to lease dorm space for 300 undergraduates at what is now the Best Western Hotel on Sixth Avenue in downtown Troy.

The college will lease the dorm space for an undisclosed amount from a partnership of developers that own it, including Blitman Building Corp., Columbia Development Companies and BBL Construction Services.

The developers are funding renovations with about $20 million from a Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency bond, an RPI spokesman said. “[The deal] was deliberately structured to keep the property on the tax roles,” he said.

The conversion of the Best Western is expected to be completed by August 2009. The project will include: structural changes and replacement of the roof; installation of new safety systems; upgrading of interior furniture and fixtures; conversion of 154 hotel rooms to 148 dorm rooms on 78,500 square feet; and an apartment for live-in professional staff and four rooms for resident assistants. On-site parking also will be available at the dorm. RPI officials said continuous shuttle bus service to campus will be available.

According to college officials, the project will increase undergraduate dorm space by about 15 percent. RPI currently has about 5,000 undergraduate students, of which about 2,000 live in school-controlled dormitory housing.

The new residence hall will be situated at the bottom of what’s called the “Rensselaer Approach,” a granite staircase that symbolizes the connection between the city of Troy and RPI.

“Our investments in the future of the Institute, Troy and the greater Capital Region continue with this expansion of student housing into the heart of the city of Troy,” RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson said.

Government leaders praised the project, including state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino and Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian, at a news conference Tuesday announcing the project.

“The change from the Best Western Hotel into state-of-the-art student housing in the heart of downtown Troy is the finest example of integrating student life into the city of Troy in many years,” Tutunjian said.

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