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Five VCFA Buildings Under Contract with Engineering School

The Vermont College of Fine Arts. Photo by John Lazenby.
The Vermont College of Fine Arts campus will see some changes this fall. 

Five of the college’s buildings are being sold to Greenway Institute, a Vermont nonprofit that offers college-level sustainable engineering education. And another building is under contract with longtime tenant the New School of Montpelier. 

The purchase agreement with Greenway is near completion, said state Rep. Rebecca Holcombe, D-Norwich, Greenway’s cofounder.

“We’re just negotiating the final details of the closing. We don’t anticipate any problem,” Holcombe said in an interview while she was in town Friday to meet with city officials. 

One Year Later

The sale comes just over a year after VCFA leadership announced that it would be selling 11 campus buildings, and moving its annual residency programs to Colorado College. The college’s low-residency graduate-level arts programming will continue to be administered out of the Montpelier headquarters, but residential programming is moving out of state. Some faculty and students have protested the change throughout the past year. The college has promised to keep its headquarters in Vermont and is not selling College Hall or the college green. 

From Art to Engineering

Greenway will be purchasing Noble, Glover, Stone, Schulmaier, and Dewey halls, Holcombe said. This fall, in its first school year at the Montpelier campus, Greenway plans to hold classes for 20 students in Noble Hall, all of whom will be staying in a campus dormitory for the “Greenway Center for Equity and Sustainability.” Holcombe noted that Greenway has been working in partnership with Elizabethtown College of Pennsylvania and Norwich Technologies to launch the program in Montpelier.

“We are pleased the campus will continue to be used for higher education and look forward to collaborating with Greenway on shared services and complementary programming,” said VCFA’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Katie Gustafson.

According to a joint press release from both Greenway and VCFA, “The Greenway Center for Equity and Sustainability represents a unique opportunity to extend the campus’ current use as an institution of higher education. The GCES will offer mission-driven college and graduate level engineering and technology coursework that prepares diverse graduates to design and build a more sustainable and equitable future.”

Some of the buildings Greenway is buying already have long-term tenants (The Bridge is one of those tenants, in the Stone Science Building). Holcombe said Greenway plans to keep the many tenants of VCFA buildings, and has no immediate plans to renegotiate existing lease agreements. 

“Greenway is purchasing the buildings where we have current tenants and they are interested in maintaining all of these tenants,” confirmed Gustafson.

“We carefully identified potential buyers that have a demonstrated commitment to serving the community and will continue to enrich the campus and city,” said VCFA President Leslie Ward. “We are pleased to be partnering with entities that share our community’s values and commitment to lifelong learning.” 

Holcombe noted that an influx of young people will be seen around town once the Greenway programming starts up. “We’re good at innovation; we’re good at sustainability,” she said. “We’re trying to bring that all together in a way we think will complement Montpelier … I hope it also helps bring more young people to help drive this for the whole [community].”

Bishop-Hatch Going to the New School

In addition to the five buildings Greenway is purchasing, another — Bishop-Hatch hall — is under contract with the New School, a long-time VCFA tenant and a private special education school serving approximately 30 students in grades 3–12, Gustafson said in an email to The Bridge.

Last spring, a local group of wellness professionals known as 150 Main Street LLC planned to purchase three VCFA buildings — Crowley Center, Martin House, and Gary Library. The sale fell through during the discovery phase of the purchase, according to a letter 150 Main Street sent to neighbors on College Street this spring.

Greenway and VCFA will host a community event on July 13 on the VCFA campus in the College Hall Chapel at 6:00 p.m. to introduce the program and hear from community members about their hopes for the future. You can also follow the meeting remotely at orcamedia.net/show/vcfa-community-meeting-live .