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Daemen College is moving forward with a $12 million project to tear down 23 dormitory buildings and erect seven new ones in their place in an effort to attract more students to live on campus.

The new buildings -- all hard-wired for cable TV and Internet access -- will feature suites, each with four single bedrooms, two bathrooms and one kitchenette. They will replace buildings that were erected 50 years ago.

Students at the college have been complaining that the rooms in the old buildings are too small, the walls too thin and the facilities outdated, college officials said.

Because of the students' dissatisfaction with the dorms, they said, vacancy rates have been rising in recent years. Now, 15 percent of the school's 550 beds are empty.

"We find our students no longer want to be doubled up. We have more and more requests for single rooms," said Frank Balcerzak, vice president for business affairs. "The competition here in Western New York is putting up new dorms. We feel we have to stay competitive and keep up with the trends."

The school plans to tackle the $12 million construction project in two phases. In February 2001, the 10 buildings adjacent to the college on Campus Drive will be torn down. New wood-frame, two-story buildings will be erected in their place in time for the opening of classes in August 2001.

In October 2001, the 13 buildings on "the island," bordered by Campus Drive and Campus Drive East, will be torn down. The new buildings should be completed by August 2002, Balcerzak said.

When the project is complete, the new buildings will accommodate 384 students -- a loss of 74 beds, according to architect Mike Terranova, who works for Lauer-Manguso Associates, the firm designing the plans.

The project also will add 80 parking spaces, he said.

Balcerzak said the school will be able to pay for the project with a 30-year bond, funded by the anticipated increase in the number of students dorming. He does not anticipate an increase in the amount students are charged annually for a single room: $6,600 for room and board.

Amherst Council Member William L. Kindel has praised the plan as a boost to redeveloping the Eggertsville area.

"This sounds like a real step forward," he said.

The plan, however, has met with some mild criticism. Mark Chason, who owns the neighboring Campus Manor apartments, said he wants to see the construction delayed so that it does not interfere with his prime rental months of August and September.

He also has asked Daemen to pay for signs to more clearly mark the entrance to the college.

The Amherst Town Board is expected to vote on the plan Oct. 2.

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