Rumors fly about new colleges

The two new residential colleges, under construction above, will cost a total of roughly $500 million.
The two new residential colleges, under construction above, will cost a total of roughly $500 million. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

Extended silence about the state of fundraising for the two new residential colleges — which former President Richard Levin first announced over five years ago — has given way to a percolation of rumors surrounding a large gift the University will allegedly announce in the near future.

The total cost associated with the planning and construction of the two new residential colleges is approximately $500 million, of which Yale has officially secured roughly $200 million. Architecture School Dean Robert A.M. Stern, whose firm Robert A.M. Stern Architects designed the plans for the construction, told the News Thursday morning he has heard the University has secured a donation toward the remaining $300 million, though he added that he does not think the gift will completely cover the outstanding balance. Last fall, administrators said they would not authorize construction before completing the necessary fundraising.

“My understanding is that President Salovey will be announcing two to three major projects during his inauguration, and I believe that the residential colleges is one of them,” Stern said.

Stern said he knows little more about the gift’s size or donor, and declined to reveal his sources.

Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said she has no information to provide about a significant gift toward the new colleges.

“There’s no story,” she said.

The colleges were originally scheduled for completion this fall, but the University postponed the construction when the recession hit in the fall of 2008.

One staff member with close ties to Woodbridge Hall, who wished to remain anonymous, said senior coworkers are speaking about the colleges as if the University is gearing up to break ground, discussing details about the construction and how to fit an influx of vehicles onto Prospect Street near the site of the new residences.

“People are operating under the assumption that they’re happening,” the staff member said. “It seems like the new colleges are being spoken of in the present tense.” The staff member added that the inauguration will likely be the occasion for the announcement.

But if the University is planning on moving forward with construction soon, it has yet to file building permits to do so. The last updates on the site permits for the construction site at 70 Sachem St. were for electrical and mechanical preparation on March 22 and April 10, respectively.

Jimmy Lu ’77, chair of the Association of Yale Alumni Board of Directors, said discussions of an impending gift frequently crop up during alumni gatherings.

Last spring, when alumni gathered on campus for a dinner for Sterling Fellows, a class of donor to Yale, on May 3, another anonymous Yale staff member said many expected an announcement about the colleges during the event.

The staff member told the News a group of alumni gathered in Mory’s after the dinner, and discussion turned to how they had believed Levin would announce the groundbreaking.

Thomas Ketchum ’72, present at the dinner and Mory’s afterward, told the News that the event was a celebration in Levin’s honor, and confirmed that alumni present had heard rumors that the University would announce a big gift soon.

But Levin told the News the next day that while the University was always working on large gifts, he did not expect anything would be ready to announce within the next few months.

University President Peter Salovey told the News on Aug. 27 that he could not discuss the state of fundraising for the two new colleges beyond how gifts for the college were “continuing to come in.”

Salovey could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He added that though nothing was scheduled at the time, the University would provide an update to the community sometime during the fall semester, since it had “been a while” since the last announcement.

Turner Construction Company is slated to undertake the construction on the currently-empty lots behind Grove Street Cemetery.

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