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Landmark College in Putney is seeking town and state permits to construct its first athletic field as well as a new facilities operations building. The school already has raised more than $1 million for the project.

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Landmark plans further expansion

College seeks town and state permission to build its first athletic field and a new facilities operations building

PUTNEY—A little over six months after cutting the ribbon on a $10 million expansion project, Landmark College administrators are looking to grow again.

The college, which specializes in serving students with learning difficulties, has submitted town permitting documents for construction of a new facilities-operations building and the campus’s first athletic field.

Landmark President Peter Eden said the school has raised more than $1 million for the athletic facilities, a project that he believes is necessary to keep pace with the school’s continuing evolution as both a two- and four-year college.

“We’ll be able to better recruit students,” Eden said. “And we’ll be able to better retain students.”

A pioneering program

Landmark operates on the grounds of the former Windham College off Route 5 just north of the village center. When Landmark opened in 1985 with a two-year degree program, it was a pioneer in tailoring college programs to students with dyslexia.

Three decades later, administrators say the school is one of the few accredited colleges in the U.S. that focus exclusively on students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism-spectrum disorder.

While the college’s mission hasn’t changed much, the curriculum and the campus have been evolving. Landmark offered its first bachelor’s-degree program in 2012 and announced the addition of two more such programs in 2015.

Also in 2015, Landmark officially opened the $10 million, 29,000-square-foot Nicole Goodner MacFarlane Science, Technology and Innovation Center. The facility features classrooms, meeting space, faculty offices, and labs; it also hosts the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training.

‘Much-needed’ athletic facilities

The latest expansion plans aren’t on that same scale but are nonetheless significant for a relatively small college of just 450 students. The driver behind the project, school officials wrote in a permitting application, is “creation of much-needed athletic facilities.”

“After an exhaustive search for locations that would accommodate a new athletic field, the college has put together a series of projects that optimally sites the field in close proximity to the main campus and creates a new, welcoming, southern entrance to the college,” Landmark administrators wrote.

The plan is to place a regulation-size field for soccer and lacrosse on a parcel along River Road South near Charles Drake Lane — a spot currently occupied by Landmark’s facilities services building and a gravel lot.

“With the purchase of approximately one acre of land from the abutting land owner to the south, the field is designed to fit into the landscape and minimize impacts to existing roadways, utilities and natural areas,” school officials wrote.

The field will be accompanied by a relatively small “team room” that also provides concession and restroom facilities. There will be bleachers, but Eden said there is no plan for lighting the field.

Landmark lists organized teams for sports, including cross country, basketball, baseball, softball, and soccer. The campus quad can host the latter sport, but Eden cites the need for a regulation-size field.

He also said athletic facilities are an expected feature at modern college campuses.

“Our students simply deserve an athletic field,” Eden said. “They want one, and they need one.”

Eden said the field will feature “all-weather” artificial turf to allow for greater use during and after inclement weather. He’s hoping that the field will serve Landmark’s student body as well as local residents.

“It’s going to be beautiful, and it’s going to be available to the community. We’re wide open to sharing our facilities with the community,” Eden said. “It will be a nice opportunity for people who might otherwise not investigate the college to see what a really nice campus we have.”

Landmark administrators expect to relocate their facilities operations to a parcel just across River Road South, where a new building will host offices, shop space, and storage, permitting documents show.

Hopes for fall completion

Putney’s Development Review Board is scheduled to consider Landmark’s plans at an April 19 hearing at the town office. Officials said the college also will need a state Act 250 land-use permit.

If all goes smoothly, Eden said he wants to see the projects completed by September — just in time for the fall semester. “It won’t have any [negative] impact on the environment here. It’s hopefully an easy decision to support the facility,” he said.

Landmark set a $1.5 million fundraising goal for the athletic-facilities project and already has gathered $1.1 million, Eden said. That comes on the heels of a capital campaign for the MacFarlane building that raised nearly $7.25 million — $250,000 more than the college’s initial goal.

Eden said that level of consistent giving has allowed Landmark to pursue its expansion plans without burdening the college’s operational budget.

“Many of the donors have kids who were students here, and this place changed their lives. These are very, very grateful friends of the college,” Eden said. “When you come and ask them, they’ve been generous.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #351 (Wednesday, April 6, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

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