New dorm's high hopes

Downtown Troy businesses expected to benefit from former hotel’s transformation

By KENNETH C. CROWE II, Staff writer

Photos by Will Waldron

First published in print: Saturday, May 16, 2009

TROY — Businesses expect to benefit from the 300 students living downtown in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s new dorm this fall.

And RPI’s decision to run a shuttle bus to the new Howard N. Blitman, P.E. ’50 Residence Commons on Sixth Avenue near Broadway will provide easy access for students up on the main campus.

“It’s fantastic. I gives RPI students a real stronghold down here,” said Elizabeth Young, executive director of the Troy Downtown Collaborative.

RPI opened the dorm Friday. The students will move in this August for the start of the university’s 2009-10 school year.

The university spent $17 million to acquire the former Best Western Inn hotel property and transform it into student residences. The rebuilding phase of the project cost $8 million to strip the building down to a shell then remake it into the dorms.

“I’m very, very moved by this,” said Blitman, an RPI trustee who lives in Scarsdale. Blitman’s family has been associated with RPI since 1910 when his father Charles Blitman

arrived to attend the school. His grandfather, Charles Blitman, was a farmer in East Greenbush.

Blitman recalled that as an RPI student he lived downtown on First Street near the YWCA and ran up the Approach to make morning classes on the hilltop campus.

Mayor Harry Tutunjian said the city is anticipating the positive impact by the arrival of the students.

“This influx of students into our downtown will one day prove to be the move that enhances the town and gown relationship that we all strive for,” Tutunjian said in a statement.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for us all.”

This year, RPI student leaders and organizations approached Troy Night Out and the Troy Downtown Collaborative to involve students with events, Young said.

RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson stressed that the development of the new residential commons reflects the university-wide effort to improve the student living and learning experience. Jackson said in a statement that RPI’s investment in the dorm and on the main campus has helped the city’s economic revival. The new dorm will remain on the city tax rolls. RPI said it pays $1.2 million annually in rent for office and research space downtown. When the students arrive, more than 500 people affiliated with RPI will live or work downtown.

Published in print in the Capital Region section of the Saturday, May 16, 2009 edition of the Times Union, Albany. NY. Photos and article appeared online: www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=800638.