, Salem, MA

March 28, 2013

Salem State to build modular housing

Demolition of old library will begin in two weeks


---- — SALEM — Buildings will be rising and falling over the next few months at Salem State University.

Just as the college prepares to demolish its old library, it is making plans to erect temporary modular housing that will be ready by the start of the fall semester.

A college official announced yesterday that they are about to seek proposals for a three-story modular building on the main campus for about 100 freshmen.

The temporary building is needed because of the growing demand for housing by students applying to Salem State, the official said. Currently, the two freshman dorms are bursting at the seams.

“Peabody and Bowditch residence halls are at 124 percent” of occupancy, Vice President Scott James said at a meeting last night of a neighborhood advisory committee.

The overflow of freshmen on campus has forced rooms that are normally for two students to become triples and pushed some students into another dorm.

Adding more students to the rooms has not been an insurmountable problem, James said, because Salem State has “the largest rooms in the state university system for that type of residence hall.”

In preparing for next year’s freshman class, the college decided to lease a modular dorm for three to five years to accommodate the growing numbers of students who want to live on campus.

Two years ago, about 60 percent of freshmen lived in residence halls. This year, that figure climbed to 70 percent.

James also updated the neighborhood group on plans, which were announced a few weeks ago, to build a 300-350-student dorm. At the time, college officials did not announce where it would be built. Last night, James filled in some of the blanks.

“We are currently looking at two locations,” he told neighbors.

The possible sites are the university police station on the central campus and a parking lot near Peabody Hall on the main campus.

James stressed that those are tentative plans. A final determination, which the college hopes to announce in June, will depend on soil reports and other information.

“No decision has been made,” he said.

As is evidenced by the construction boom of recent years, Salem State, once largely a commuter school, is housing a growing number of students in residence halls.

About 2,000, or one-third of the university’s 6,200 undergraduates, currently live on campus. The long-term goal is to get to 50 percent, or about 3,100, James said.

He stressed, however, that Salem State does not plan to increase enrollment.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the front section of the library along Lafayette Street, which has been draped in scaffolding for six years, is scheduled to begin in about two weeks. It should take five to six months to clear the site, an official said.

The first phase of the demolition was completed in 2011, allowing for construction of the new Library and Learning Commons on the rear of the property, which is scheduled to open in September.

The old library was closed in 2007 after an engineering report determined it was structurally unsound.

Tom Dalton can be reached at