Seaside continues toward build out with Academic Village

Deborah Wheeler
Following with the Seaside tradition of recycling older buildings to positions of civic dignity, the seven cottages purchased for the village at an auction in Mississippi were once used to house hurricane victims after Katrina. Each cottage interior is being totally renovated while the exteriors are being left largely intact.

After surpassing a 30-year milestone, Seaside is taking another step in its master build-out plan with construction of the town's Academic Village.

Seaside's Academic Village will be built directly across from the first two Seaside Neighborhood School buildings in the Lyceum.

The Village will be for use by visiting artists, architects, and scholars who frequently come to the town to either present course study or attend seminars. The Village will be comprised of seven buildings brought in from Mississippi that were used for emergency housing following Hurricane Katrina. The buildings are being renovated to have a cottagey look that will fit in with Seaside's architectural ambiance.

When the renovation is complete, the buildings will be able to house and sleep up to 14 people. "Dorm" cottages will have four twin beds, a shared bath and are priced inexpensively. One-bedroom cottages are priced at the higher end.

The buildings will be arranged to form an enclosure that will create a courtyard conducive for outdoor meals and talks. The Village will have a commercial-grade kitchen and outside shower. A big boardwalk will also be built to serve as additional outdoor space.

The buildings will be moved into the Lyceum space by crane next week.

Seaside Neighborhood School's three buildings back up to the Lyceum area, and the school's children use the green lawn for their outdoor activities. However, Seaside Institute Director Diane Dorney said none of the dedicated green space would be taken up in constructing the Academic Village.

"The cottages are replacing scrub brush and trees that were on that site previously. All the grass that the children play on has been left intact and, in fact, is not permitted to be built on as it is dedicated recreation space forever," she said.

The Academic Village Cottages are to be used in conjunction with Seaside Institute programming and cannot be rented to the public. Students may only pay $25 or $30 per night when coming with their universities.

Dorney said the Lyceum was always intended to be a place for learning from the beginning when Seaside was founded in the early 1980s. There were various ideas and plans of how to develop the space along the way that fell by the wayside through the years, she said.

"In the early 2000s there was a $15 million plan that was shelved due to the economy and other plans were shelved along the way," said Dorney.

Two years ago, the opportunity to purchase these buildings presented itself, and Seaside founder Robert Davis and the Institute thought it was an excellent opportunity.

"It has been difficult to hold lectures, etc., in Seaside due to the housing situation," said Dorney. "We bring students in regularly and having this space will make it easier for us to work with universities."

The Davis Family Foundation purchased the cottages and donated them to the Seaside Institute, which then began a fundraising initiative for renovations. So far, $112,000 has been raised through sponsorships, but $150,000 is needed. Sponsors will get their names on a cottage and other benefits, said Dorney. So far, four-and-a-half sponsorships have been sold.

"They are small but charming quarters complete with a bed, small dresser, desk with chair, and bathrooms will have modern fixtures," said Dorney. "We will provide linens in most cases, but we may have the students bring their own bedding to cut down on their costs. We want this to be affordable housing because it is tied to programming, but I think that people will love them when they see them."

Renovations are scheduled for completion by the end of April. Classes are scheduled during May with visiting artists and architects who can stay in the Village.

For more information see and click "info" for some description on housing and the costs of the housing options for these programs.

Future plans for the Lyceum also include a performing arts center.