SCHENECTADY — Union College is moving forward with plans to base campus safety officers in a former bank building on Nott Street.
Union received city Zoning Board of Appeals approval for the plan last week and will go before the city Planning Board next week. With the second approval in place, the college hopes to start renovations in December and take occupancy before the fall 2019 semester starts.
Union announced its purchase of the vacant and vandalized bank building in June 2017. It wasn’t until August 2018 that the next major announcement came from the college: The facility is to be named the Williams Center for Campus Community Safety.
The name honors Kelly Williams, a 1986 alumna who sits on the college’s board of directors and provided the lead donation for the project. The name also indicates a key aspect of the project: Getting Union’s 26-member security force out into the community around the college, and bringing the community into the security building for programs and events.
Director of Campus Security Christopher Hayen said his officers currently operate from the rear of the ground floor of College Park Hall, the former hotel-turned-dorm near the foot of Nott Street, where there is not much space to meet before shifts or big events.
“The big thing is, we'll have an actual muster room,” Hayen said.
The former bank at Nott Street and Van Vranken Avenue will be a patrol and administrative headquarters for the security officers. Other functions now done in College Park Hall — issuing parking permits and student IDs and maintaining video surveillance systems — will remain there.
Hayen said there was more involved in planning the new safety building than commissioning a blueprint, which slowed the process down. Designing the communications wiring, for example, was an involved process.
Now that the plans and budget are in place, extensive renovations must be done.
The old bank vault, he said, apparently is an integral part of the building. So only its door will be removed.
“My understanding is that, behind the framing, it still will be there,” Hayen said.
Union bought the 2,500-square-foot building for $135,000. The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority gave the project a $25,000 grant and noted the projects that have taken place nearby, including construction of the Golub headquarters, residential conversion of the old DSS building and expansions at Ellis Hospital. Another key source of funding was the Wright Family Foundation.
Hayen said Union campus safety works with the security personnel of the hospital and the Golub building, and the three can call on each other in times of need. Union also works frequently with city public safety personnel.
“This was an opportunity to put something on that side of the campus,” Hayen said. “I just think that’s going to help with quality of life” in the neighborhood.