In April 2010, the Vermont Law School commissioned Sasaki to complete a framework plan for their campus. The impetus for this project was the school's recent purchase of a building adjacent to the South Royalton Village Green, presenting a rich opportunity for the school to connect to the local community.
Vermont Law School has the top environmental law program in the country, yet the school's academic commitment to sustainability is not visible on campus. The framework plan proposes investment in the school should be tied to investment in the Village of South Royalton. In so doing, the plan offers a unique vision of sustainability, one that ties the success and prospects of the campus to the well-being of the surrounding New England village. The campus is the village, and the village is the campus. Together, with a unified vision for growth and development, both can flourish.
The plan outlines creating a new front door to campus that faces the main street of South Royalton and making better pedestrian connections to the village and to the nearby White River. The study also determines an appropriate and financially sound preservation strategy for historic campus structures and recommendations for improving the campus street network and parking areas by removing roadways and parking areas currently within the 100-year floodplain of the White River. The plan also addresses future on-campus program needs including student life, student residence expansion, a potential student fitness center, and expansion space for various program uses.
One key aspect of the framework plan is that the overall implementation strategy is less cost-intensive than traditional university development. For example, the team decided not to build separate, stand-alone student housing on campus, but to rather encourage more student housing in the village through small-scale joint partnerships between the Vermont Law School and South Royalton. Other strategies to spread campus improvement costs over a longer time period include reusing historic campus and village buildings, distributing student residences in smaller houses in the village, and creating a dynamic student village with a cluster of buildings at the corner of campus. The result is several smaller and more fundable projects, instead of one or two large, capital-intensive projects.
The impact of this project on both the Vermont Law School and the Village of South Royalton will be significant. This planning study provides a framework for growth and investment in both the school and the village—a vision for a joint partnership that is achievable and sustainable.
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