The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Pace of AVTEC dorm construction escalates


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

AVTEC’s new dormitories’ foundation is readied to receive the arrival of 39 ready-made, individual dorm modules, shipped in from Idaho.

The impressive speed of the AVTEC dormitory construction on Third Avenue goes into warp drive this week.

Saturday, three large trucks begin hauling 39 shrink-wrapped, pre-constructed modular dorm units to the AVTEC dorm site on Third Avenue. The modules, fabricated in Idaho, should arrive by barge at the Alaska Railroad freight dock today and will be transported to the job site. Third Avenue, which will be closed to regular traffic between Monroe and Madison streets from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Aug. 10, is the staging area as Cornerstone General Contractors of Anchorage immediately begins unwrapping the modules and lowering them onto the newly-constructed wood and cement foundation with a large crane, one by one.

“If all goes well, in the matter of one week we should see the better part of the building in place, said AVTEC Director Fred Esposito. Cornerstone project managers expect to assemble about six modules a day.

Then it’s a question of hooking them all together, connecting them up to central plumbing and electrical systems, and siding and roofing them. Each of the dorm room modules already have their own walls, doors, windows, and are already plumbed for water and heat and wired for lighting and electricity. The majority of the project that will remain is inside detail, finish and furnishing work that can be easily accomplished out of the weather, so the new dormitory should be completed and ready to receive students in advance of the Jan. 1 start of the following semester.

The completed 35,500-square-foot three story dormitory will have 118 bedrooms including private rooms, 55 two-person bathrooms, a laundry, an elevator, and common areas on each floor for recreation. An array of Alaska artwork, selected by a committee with local representatives and coordinated by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, will decorate the common areas. The dorm was designed to be a significant improvement over the former dorm facilities which had low ceilings, narrow walls and hallways, and was either too hot or too drafty. You’d walk down the road in the dead of winter and see 10 windows open in the dorms, according to Esposito. He said it was the only way students had to regulate the inside temperature.

The new dorm also will be a more energy efficient building with high efficiency boilers and heat to each space regulated with a digital control system. It will have energy efficient forms of indoor and outdoor lighting, all allowing AVTEC to realize energy cost savings.

The large wooden structure being built on the northwest end of the new complex is a multi purpose area which will house staff offices, the laundry, as well as a commons featuring student lounge and recreation areas. The building will be connected to the cafeteria so the students won’t have to go outside in the rain or snow at mealtime. The northwest corner of the building will have an expanse of glass windows that will offer views of Mount Marathon and the mountains to the north.

The first floor will have a comfortable living room style area with comfortable chairs and couches and a large flat-screen television. The second floor common space will be more of a recreation area with plenty of natural light and high windows and ceilings. It will have pool, ping pong and air hockey tables.

“It’s going to be more conducive to students being a lot more comfortable in their surroundings and their environment, to studying, and for them to feel more at home, more at ease,” Esposito said. “The idea is to create a comfortable place where they would want to stay, so that they stay in school once they arrive, and they do well.”

About 400 long-term students typically attend AVTEC’s programs in Seward every year, and that number doubles when those who attend its short-term programs are counted. Most of the long-term students stay in the dorms, and some of the short-term students do too, although AVTEC provides separate housing for students with families and children.

The new dormitory will bring Alaska’s vocational school on a par with dormitories customarily found at traditional universities and upscale community colleges and will help AVTEC market itself and be able to attract students in the future. AVTEC already has world-class training programs which practically guarantee that graduating students will immediately qualify for good paying full time jobs currently available in today’s economy, with pathways for further growth, Esposito said.

The part that was missing, was the ability for AVTEC to offer attractive, modern accommodations to equal those standards, and to demonstrate to future students and their parents the respect they have for the students who go there, and thus the quality of a vocational education. “It will give us the complete package,” he said.

In the meantime, the majority of incoming and continuing students will be housed in rooms at the Breeze Inn along with some residing in the other on-site dorm building and in AVTEC-owned family residences nearby.


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