Work started in early September on Niagara County Community College's first dormitory, but dignitaries from across the county made it official Monday with a formal groundbreaking.
Many of those responsible for getting the $19 million-plus project off the ground -- including college President James P. Klyczek and State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane -- stuck symbolic gold shovels into the ground.
Klyczek said the ceremony provided a way to celebrate the project and thank the people who made it happen.
The new building, the first of three planned dormitories, will provide suites for 308 students. It is scheduled to open in August. Students are expected to be able to reserve rooms for the 2008-09 school year shortly after this semester ends.
The rooms are expected to cost $6,000 to $7,000 for two semesters.
This is the first student housing project sanctioned by the school, but not the first time NCCC students have been able to live close to their classrooms.
A number of NCCC students in the 1960s and early '70s rented apartments and motel rooms near the old Buffalo Avenue campus in the south end of Niagara Falls while attending the college, which then was based in the city.
That's when the college was both lovingly and jokingly referred to as "Nabisco Tech," because classes were held in the now demolished Nabisco Shredded Wheat plant where the world-famous cereal once was made.
College Trustee Edward Pawenski, one of the college's founders, said he did not know why it took so long for the school to seize the opportunity to build student housing on the Sanborn campus, which opened in 1973.
"I think a lot of people [back then] were skeptical about the cost, and whether it would go over," Pawenski said. "I think it was finally looked at seriously after some other community colleges started doing this and were successful."
Maziarz said that it has not been until the last couple of years that community colleges started taking the notion of student housing seriously.
"The state model in the 1960s and 1970s was that community colleges were to be within commuting distances and weren't designed to provide living quarters for students," Maziarz said. "But times have changed since community colleges started up in New York State 40 years ago. For example, you don't have the family structure you used to have. There are a lot of single parents. . . .
"Today it's more conducive to have student housing. At the other end of my Senate district in Rochester, Monroe County Community College opened dorms for the first time over a year ago, and I'll tell you they are full and very successful. They are getting kids out of the City of Rochester who are staying at the college, where it's a much better environment for them to live a normal college life. It also provides them with a good learning environment."
NCCC Student Senate President Shannon Williams was among those who were pleased.
"This paves the way for the future student body of NCCC," Williams said. "It will make the college more accessible . . . and will let a lot more people participate in both academic and co-curricular activities [because they can live on campus].
"It also will allow students who previously could not attend our college [because they lived too far away] to come here and help build a more diverse community at NCCC. So today we are breaking ground on the future of NCCC."
Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, also a college trustee, said the new student housing will be a magnet for recruitment.