17 November 2003: ARCHITECT VISION COMES TO LIFE IN NEW ROCHELLE

The master plan created by the firm of Susan Doban Architect, PC, for Monroe College on Main Street in New Rochelle, NY, is coming to life with the opening of the college’s new administration and classroom building, Milavec Hall, and the recent approval from city officials to build a six-story dormitory adjacent to it.

Susan Doban, principal of Susan Doban Architect, PC, and her firm transformed an abandoned commercial property into Milavec Hall, a 22,000 square foot building that opened in September, 2003, at Monroe College’s campus on Main Street in downtown New Rochelle. For the $2.8 million gut renovation project, Ms. Doban designed classrooms, offices, and a new façade for the building, which will serve as the gateway to the college’s east campus and further extend the college’s presence along Main Street.

“The Milavec Hall project was rewarding because it enabled us to build on our strengths—designing constructive solutions for educational facilities, and revitalizing commercial strips by restoring facades and creating commercial spaces,” Ms. Doban said. “In this case we created an office space for the college that will also invigorate a downtown area.

“One of the architectural challenges of the Milavec Hall project was to bring light and a sense of openness into the building, which is quite open along Main Street but would be naturally dark because the rear of the building is built into a hill,” Ms. Doban said. “Our solution was to create a central, sky lit space to bring in natural light and create a focal point for the building. Interior windows also let natural light penetrate from one classroom into another so that even some interior classrooms have views to the exterior. We also introduced interesting colors and patterns throughout so that even spaces removed from natural light are inviting and playful. At the same time, we used finer materials at key locations, such as granite and limestone columns for the façade and custom light fixtures, to communicate the importance of the building as the centerpiece of an educational institution.”

For the next phase of the campus development, Ms. Doban has designed a six-story, 45,000 square foot, 200-student dormitory adjacent to Milavec Hall on which construction has begun. The dormitory site plan was approved unanimously by the New Rochelle Planning Board on September, 30, 2003, when a special permit was granted for an educational use on the site. Both projects are part of the master plan that Ms. Doban helped create for Monroe College’s newly acquired 1.5 acre site in downtown New Rochelle. Monroe College’s main campus is in the Bronx.

“The new dormitory—New Rochelle Hall—takes the place of a parking lot that sat vacant for several years, and which has been an abrupt physical termination to the potential flow of commercial activity eastward along Main Street,” Ms. Doban said. “Upon completion of the dorm, the city will experience storefronts with an open feel and a sense of vitality along this 144-foot long key frontage, instead of the blank wall that stands there today. The centerpiece of the dormitory design is a glass-clad tower that will serve not only as a lounge for the students on the five upper floors, but will be illuminated from within day and night, serving as an appropriate termination point, even a beacon, of the revitalized Main Street.”

The dormitory is envisioned to include a computer room, exercise facility, common spaces, and a landscaped parking lot behind the dormitory.

“Susan has responded magnificently to the goals for our buildings and through her design is creating architectural assets for Monroe College and the community as a whole,” said Marc Jerome, vice president, Monroe College “We view Milavec Hall as the heart of our evolving campus and believe it will serve as an important link between our existing facilities on Main Street to the west and the new dormitory.”

Ralph DiBart, executive director of the Downtown New Rochelle Business Improvement District, also praised the project.

“Susan took a 22,000 square foot building that had been vacant for years and turned it into a glorious building—Milavec Hall,” said Mr. DiBart, who is the driving force behind the downtown redevelopment that includes the conversion of former Bloomingdales and Lillian Vernon stores and other sites into luxury housing on the west end of Main Street. “The Monroe College dormitory building will further complete the improvements to Main Street, increase economic development, and bring new life to the east end of the BID district. By bringing in investment and quality design to New Rochelle, Monroe College is serving as both an educational and economic institution for our community.”

In addition to numerous commercial and residential projects in the tri-state area and New England, Ms. Doban’s firm has contributed to many other educational projects, including the $20 million exterior modernization of five New York City public schools; the $3 million landscaped campus, quadrangle, and athletic fields for the new Kew Gardens, Queens, campus of Touro College; exterior modernizations for both the Freeport and Central Islip Union Free School Districts; and design documents for the new PS 7 in Brooklyn.

Based in Brooklyn, the firm’s Brooklyn projects include the design for the new home of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to be occupied in fall 2003, a new streetscape design for improvements to Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay to be completed in 2004, and the recently opened Sugarcane Restaurant.