Jewel by the Sea
A remote seaside area of Endicott College’s campus, once home to a historic mansion, had become a hodgepodge of underused facilities. A new vision, supported by solid financial planning and phased construction, turned an eyesore into a campus gem.
By Tracy Kozak and Lynne O’Toole
In his first board meeting at Endicott College, where he arrived in 1987 as the institution's new president, Richard E. Wylie learned of a proposal to sell the college. No one had informed him that this was a consideration for the fragmented campus in Beverly, Massachusetts, that was in need of revitalization. The board, Wylie recalls, said, “'We'll give you two years to turn things around.' People thought there was a distinct probability that we were going to disappear.”
A clear and strategic vision would be the only way to bring the institution into the next century and allow it to survive. A key component of the rejuvenation was the South Campus, which had been managed on a piecemeal basis, eventually diminishing the overall impression and attraction of the campus. With strategic financial planning and a four-year construction plan, Endicott College has recaptured the ambience of the property's original days as a seaside mansion. Following is the story of the transformation of the institution from obsolescence to a campus jewel by the sea.
Building on a Rich History
Endicott College's South Campus centers on a renowned historic seaside mansion built during the golden age of Boston's North Shore at the turn of the 20th century. In 1905, architect Guy Lowell of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts fame designed and built “Allanbank” for Bryce J. Allan and his wife, Anna. Bryce was the son of Sir Hugh Allan, founder and president of the Allan Line shipping company and the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Ltd. of Montreal. Their magnificent estate included the Italianate-style manor house and carriage house with stable, where Allan kept his prized throroughbreds.
After the death of Anna Allan in 1943, the recently formed Endicott College purchased the property. Endicott used the house as a student residence hall, and the stables were converted to classrooms. At this time, the house was renamed “Tupper Hall” in honor of the college's cofounder, Eleanor Tupper.
Endicott College was founded in 1939 as a two-year women's college. The first graduating class in 1941 included only 20 women. In 1944, the college began offering associate degrees and, after Endicott received accreditation in 1952 from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, enrollments quickly increased and programs expanded.
Located a short distance from the Main Campus, the land surrounding Tupper Hall was dubbed “South Campus.” As a readily available asset, this land was sporadically developed to fulfill the overflowing needs of the Main Campus, resulting in new dormitories and a gymnasium. The formal oval lawn was reallocated for athletics and parking. By the 1960s the estate was surrounded by a cluster of bleak utilitarian buildings, loosely connected by an assortment of asphalt lots and playing fields.
Over the next two decades, facilities for core college programs were centralized on the Main Campus, while the South Campus remained a satellite. In alignment with the national trend, enrollments and funding began to decline at the women's college. Programs and capital improvements became strained, while many similar women's colleges started closing their doors. By the late 1980s, this remote area of campus was further hindered by its eclectic array of uses, including a hospitality venue, community athletics, and student housing.
It was during this period that Endicott's leadership began to wonder if the grand potential of this oceanfront site could ever be realized and incorporated into the greater campus—or if it was time to put the college on the auction block.
Visualizing Facilities, Figuring Financing
But President Wylie arrived at Endicott with a fresh eye. Under his guidance, the college embarked on an ambitious scheme of planned growth and improvement. Academic offerings were quickly expanded, with the college earning four-year baccalaureate status in 1988 and becoming coed in 1994.
Facility improvement was also an important objective. Rather than seeing the South Campus as a series of disjointed and uncoordinated spaces, Wylie viewed the property as a perfect opportunity to grow and enrich the school. He recognized that the unique characteristics of the South Campus could facilitate the launching of perhaps a new graduate business school and a conference center. While some infrastructure already existed, additional facilities and upgrades would be required to make these new programs viable.
Of course, with growth comes cost. Funding was scarce and, consequently, certain constraints were inevitable. Fortunately, the business office and its leadership were able to capture this new vision and eventually developed a financial plan to make the transformation possible. Adopting a strategic financing model and developing a phased construction schedule ultimately allowed Endicott to turn an undesirable section of the campus into a visually appealing and functionally cohesive part of the institution.
False starts. As a small college, Endicott does not have a substantial endowment. This posed challenges as the business office started to explore funding options for the conversion of the South Campus, including the following:
- A partnership with a for-profit conference services group. This would provide the necessary capital for renovations and additions, and the firm would professionally manage the conference center after opening. While this initially seemed to be a plan that made fiscal sense given limited capital project funds, the college soon realized that this option would result in a long-term contract that might create a certain loss of control of the facility, an option that was not viable for Wylie or the board of trustees.
- Use of long-term debt to finance the renovations and additions necessary to convert the South Campus to a conference center. Since some facilities were planned to produce revenue, unrelated business income was a financing issue. The college intended to use the new conference center to sponsor professional development workshops and executive education, and sell complete meeting packages to outside clients for their training and meeting needs. This made the project ineligible for tax-exempt financing, as the purpose was to produce unrelated business income. Furthermore, it would be managed by an outside, for-profit, conference-management group.
- Another solution. As financing was not available for this type of project, to make all this happen the finance office was tasked with developing strategic and resourceful approaches for project financing. The decision was made to break down the overall construction and renovation plan into discrete subprojects that could be funded over a period of years from a combination of annual operating funds and fundraising commitments from a capital campaign (See sidebar, “Alumni and Stakeholders to the Rescue” for details of the campaign).
The five phases of the South Campus construction were accomplished over a four-year period, 2003 through 2007. The total cost of the entire South Campus project was estimated at $19 million (and came in only slightly higher), of which $12 million was provided through fundraising. Pledge payments were received over the span of four years.
The construction balance of $7 million, and temporary funding of construction pending receipt of pledged funds, was provided by the college's operating budget over a period of four years. Fortunately, the conversion from a woman's college to a coeducational college had resulted in substantial year-over-year enrollment growth averaging 15 percent per year. The additional tuition revenue provided the opportunity for the college to fund the South Campus construction costs from the annual operating budget without reducing funding for departmental operations or student services.
Build As You Go
The successful transformation of the South Campus into a new graduate school and conference center hinged on a rigid phasing plan to weave together academic and financial scheduling. Because funding would be made available across several years, the project team needed to stage the work to allow for pieces of the project to move forward sequentially. It was important to select an architect and builder with flexibility to allow for such sequential scheduling without increasing construction cost or impeding the college's ability to use the revenue-producing facilities while other areas were being constructed or renovated.
Sequencing of academic and seasonal schedules was also paramount. To keep the new facilities operational, the bulk of work needed to occur in the off-seasons: winter for the conference center, and summer for the business school. Sensitive planning ensured that construction would not impede the operations of neighboring buildings. Clearly, before the underperforming buildings could transform into state-of-the-art facilities, the project steering committee had to address these significant scheduling and funding constraints.
The college began working closely with builders Gourdeau Ltd. and A.J. Martini, (and later, Cutler Associates) in collaboration with JSA Inc. Architects, to brainstorm design, scheduling, and construction solutions and to calculate estimated costs. The final solution involved constructing the South Campus master plan in five phases.
Phase 1: Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies. Providing a dedicated building for the graduate school was the first step in establishing a credible business presence on the campus. The estate's original stable and carriage house with a 1950s dormitory addition, then called Bullock Hall, was identified as the location for this new school. As soon as funding became available, renovations and additions of 30,000 square feet commenced.
In response to the master plan's incremental financing schedule, work started in the spring had to be complete by the following fall for critical tuition income to be realized in the new academic year. Design challenges included upgrades to the original fire-damaged structure, incorporating modern mechanical systems within very shallow floor heights, and creating a cohesive identity for the original carriage house and its disparate 1950s addition.
A construction-management approach, along with a guaranteed maximum-price contract, ensured that this project came in on budget and on schedule. Completed within four months in 2003, the total cost of this phase of the project was $2.9 million.
Phase 2: Tupper Manor. The first floor of the original estate house served community functions and generated important income for the college as a wedding and social venue. Construction here could not occur during the revenue-generating summer wedding season. Consequently, this work occurred in two parts.
The first stage involved adding a 2,000-square-foot conservatory enclosure at the rear terrace to expand indoor seating capacity; updating electrical, fire protection, and HVAC controls; and adding air conditioning. By overcoming the challenge of incorporating these systems invisibly into the ornately historic interior, these features immediately increased marketability of the venue.
The second stage involved work on the second floor, including restoration of the original front loggia and reception hall, and the creation of several large meeting rooms for conferencing purposes. Completed in 2004, the construction cost of this phase was $2.4 million.
Phase 3: Oval lawn and fountain. To organize the various buildings on the South Campus and help restore the original grandeur of the estate, architects developed a plan to recreate the historic oval lawn. Their design included a maple-lined peripheral loop road with essential additional parking for conference attendees. An ornate fountain, incorporating custom bronze sculpted swans, forms the central focus of the lawn. This fountain commemorates the four children of the primary donor for these South Campus projects, and has since become a local landmark on Boston's North Shore. Completed in 2004, the construction cost of this phase was $808,000.
Phase 4: Wylie Conference Center. An abandoned gymnasium built in the 1950s, Bierkoe Hall provided an opportunity for 36,000 additional square feet of meeting space. This venue was the key to booking conferences large enough to allow for a profitable rate of return.
A new second floor was added to the existing structure within its existing volume, requiring complex structural helical underpinning of the foundations to support the new loads. New glazing systems allowed for views out to the seascape and oval lawn. Completed in 2006 with a construction cost of $5 million, this project received the Excellence in Construction Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts.
Phase 5: The Inn. The final phase saw renovations and additions to the Ebinger Hall dormitory, creating 92 rooms of overnight accommodations for conference center clients. Financial scheduling required work to be complete for fall conference season's revenue. This involved phasing the construction around students still residing in the original building. Consequently, the new addition had to be constructed during the depth of the frigid New England winter.
The complexity of these scheduling parameters ultimately led to a solution involving off-site prefabrication of structural insulated wall and floor panels. In this way, winter conditions were mitigated and valuable time was shaved from the schedule. Completed within eight months and online by 2007, the construction cost of this phase was $7.9 million.
Finishing touches: The Connector. As a final enhancement, an enclosed walkway was built to connect the two conference venues. Since the primary dining service for conference attendees is located in Tupper Manor and most of the meeting space is at the Wylie Conference Center, a physical connection was the key to making large conferences viable during inclement weather. The Connector was completed in 2010 for $460,000.
Throughout each of the project phases, existing architectural components were sensitively enhanced through historic restorations and new additions, creating a visually and functionally cohesive campus that remains congruent with the Italian style of the original seaside estate and creates a new identity for Endicott's South Campus.
The Wylie Conference Center opened as a day conference center on June 1, 2007, with multiple-day service pending completion of the 92-bed hotel the following November. Since Nov. 1, 2007, the conference center has provided a full-service executive education with its state-of-the-art facilities, which have earned International Association of Conference Center certification.
The conference center hotel encourages social and transient lodging as a way of increasing occupancy and cash flow during off-peak periods. Gross revenues from operations in the first full year of operation were $3.4 million, with expectations that revenues will increase to $5.7 million annually over the next five years. The current occupancy rate of 41 percent is expected to increase to 63 percent over the same period of time. This compares favorably with the 2009 national average occupancy rate of 55.2 percent. Although the recent economic recession certainly affected the conference center and travel industry, the college is optimistic that occupancy rates will increase as the economy improves.
Today, these facilities not only generate revenue, but also serve as a showcase for the college. The new conference center serves several purposes, providing meeting space for up to 1,071 attendees, banquet facilities for 200, and lodging rooms for 92—all comprising a venue for the underserved conference market north of Boston. The conference center attracts multiday complete meeting packages for regional corporations. For the college, these connections with regional businesses facilitate placements for Endicott's student internships, acting as a lab setting for student internships in the Hospitality Management program. With nearly 200 full-time day students in the hospitality program, campus internships not only provide real-world experience to students, but provide the college with a source of skilled future employees for the conference center.
The Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies offers students a new level of academic achievement in a professional setting. Adding graduate level and professional development studies to Endicott's curriculum—in subjects ranging from business administration to interior design—has increased enrollments by nearly 2,000 graduate students, enabling Endicott to add new satellite campuses in countries worldwide, including Bermuda, Spain, and Mexico.
The success of these endeavors has brought Endicott's vision of growth and enrichment to fruition on the new South Campus. In addition to the new business school students, the past decade has seen undergraduate enrollments more than double from 900 to 2,000; student SAT scores rise by 10 percent; and admission applications increase fourfold. Endicott College is currently ranked No. 17 and in the top tier of Northern Baccalaureate Colleges per the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings. As summed up recently by President Wylie, “It's a great success story. We're always going to be the small college on the North Shore, but people who get to know us are beginning to say, 'That's a very special place.'”
TRACY KOZAK is an associate at JSA Inc. Architecture Interiors and Planning, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; LYNNE O'TOOLE is vice president of finance and executive vice president, Endicott College, Beverly, Massachusetts.