BMA EXPANDS STUDENT AND STAFF HOUSING WITH NEW GUNDERSEN PROPERTY

The former Gundersen property was purchased by BMA this summer. The house (on left) will become a faculty residence. The barn (on right) will be renovated into a new dormitory with an additional faculty apartment add-on

This past May, BMA purchased a property that directly abuts the Northwest corner of our campus. The property consists of two acres of land, a single-family home, and a recently constructed two-story barn. For those students who attended Burke sometime between 1970 and 2000, you may recall this parcel as the Gundersen’s House and “Finn’s Field,” situated below Heib House or on the other side of “Pete’s Plunge.” 

The history of this property is that it was originally part of the campus but in the 1970s Warren Witherell sold it to Finn Gunderson and in 1980 Finn built his home upon the land. From 1984 to 2000 the house was effectively the Head of School residence where Finn and Kathy raised their two boys, Lars and Nick. When the Gundersens left Burke in 2001, they sold the property to a builder named Ted Taylor. For the next 20 years, Ted and his wife largely tolerated the hundreds of Burkies running through their field and all of the noise that drifted their way from campus.

In the winter of 2019, we became aware that Ted was serious about selling the property. At that time, we realized that there was a risk that the property would sell to owners who would turn it into a VRBO or Airbnb Mountain Bike rental unit and that the existing buildings could fill some important strategic needs. Protecting the safety and secluded nature of the BMA campus was an emotional driver, but the vision for the property ultimately made acquiring it a strategic necessity. Thanks to the generosity of a few Burke families, we were able to do so.

The vision for the newly acquired or re-acquired, property is to renovate the barn into a dorm that will replace the Moulton House and add needed faculty housing. The existing single-family home will remain as it is and support a faculty family. Moulton House will then become a space dedicated to our Post Graduate “E-Team” program with additional existing faculty units. In the 50 years that Burkies have been living on the campus, it has evolved significantly. From the early years when Frazier House was the lone building to today, facilities have been added that have changed the nature of the campus. Notably, the Dining Hall added around 1990 and the Ronnie Berlack Center completed in 2016 have shifted the center of gravity significantly up-hill and away from Mountain Road. 

Simultaneously, the traffic on Mountain Road has been steadily increasing. The completion of the Burke Mountain Hotel has made a noticeable difference most recently. As a consequence of the shift in the focus of campus and the change in the community around us, the nature of the Moulton House has changed. It now feels more remote and as the only dorm on the north side of Mountain Road, it feels separated from the rest of our campus.

Our strategic plan has highlighted the need to improve the quality and quantity of our faculty housing. Attracting and retaining the best staff is a critical element in our success and making sure that we have as many of our staff living on campus is vital to the quality of the experience for our students. This property, when fully developed will add two-family units and one single or studio living unit to our campus. Effectively, it will increase our faculty housing inventory by close to 25%.

In summary, the opportunity to purchase this property has improved our campus significantly and, if fully realized, will support a number of critical strategic initiatives. The Burke experience has always had a strong sense of “place” associated with the Northeast Kingdom and the westerly views from our perch on the side of the mountain. This property ensures that all of our students will benefit from that same experience for years to come.

PROJECT IN NUMBERS

GUNDERSEN HOUSE

Constructed in 1980 (by Finn Gundersen)

  • 2,700 sq ft
  • 3 bedrooms
  • 3 baths

Faculty housing

  • Ideal for a family, higher quality than existing units on campus
  • Ideal for a senior faculty position
  • No construction/renovation necessary
  • Target 70% of faculty living on campus by 2020-21

GUNDERSEN BARN

Constructed in 2008

  • 2,200 sq ft
  • Open garage 1st floor
  • Unfinished (framed) 2 bdrm apartment on 2nd floor

Easily convertible to dorm facility

  • Unfinished 2 floors, easy to convert
  • Blank canvas: no demolition required
  • Opportunity to attach additional staff apartment