HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is about to embark on a two-year, $43.5 million renovation project that will transform the look, feel, and organization of the campus.
The HCC Campus Center is scheduled to close Feb. 3, 2017, and construction will begin soon after. When it reopens in 2019, college officials say, the building will be a place that truly lives up to its name.
Originally known as G Building, the sloping, three-story concrete structure sits in the middle of the campus between an intermittent stream choked with invasive plants and the HCC Courtyard. Since it opened in 1980, the Campus Center has been plagued by water leaks. Projects that would have waterproofed the building have been delayed since at least 2008.
“The main impetus for this is to get the building watertight,” said interim HCC President Bill Fogarty. “Then we also wanted to do things that will improve the operation of the building and make it a real campus center.”
The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance is in charge of the project. Walsh Brothers Construction of Boston has been hired as the general contractor. The state has already allocated $8 million for the current fiscal year to begin the project, with the remainder of the funding to follow, Fogarty said.
The key features of the project include squaring off the building’s sloping façade and giving the entire building given a new exterior shell that will make it both weathertight and energy-efficient.
The squaring off and the addition of large windows on its eastern side will give the building a look that complements the adjacent Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, which opened in 2003. About 9,000 square feet of space will be added to the current 58,727.
A glass atrium will be added to the west side of the building, covering a set of double stairs that descend from the lower courtyard into an area known as the ‘pit’ that now serves as the main entrance to the food court and cafeteria. On the east side of the building, the open balcony on the second floor will be enclosed, adding extra interior space to the student dining area.
The first floor of the Campus Center, on the side facing Homestead Avenue, will become the new ‘front door’ to the campus, accessed by a bridge to be built over a restored Tannery Brook. HCC Admissions, Assessment Services (college placement testing), and the ACT Center (Advising, Career and Transfer Affairs) — now in the Frost Building — will relocate to a new Welcome Center. Admissions will have a dedicated parking lot, and a separate, college-funded project will reconfigure traffic flow, creating a new bus drop in the front of the campus.
The Campus Store (formerly the College Bookstore) will move from the first floor to the second floor, on the same level as the food court and cafeteria. The second floor will include programs and departments focused on student engagement, including Student Activities, Student Clubs, and Multicultural Academic Services (MAS), which are being relocated from other parts of the campus.
“The whole idea of bringing the Campus Store up to the second floor, so that it’s on the same level as dining services and Student Activities, really makes sense in terms of foot traffic,” said Fogarty. “They all complement each other. It will give it a real feel of a campus center.”
Academic classrooms at the north end of the second floor will be opened up to make more room for student-engagement areas. The layout, both on the first and second floor, will be more open and airy, with glass walls and doors separating offices and community spaces.
“It’s going to look different, much more open and inviting, not so much offices and chunked-up spaces like we have now,” said Michelle Snizek, director of Retention and Student Success. “The idea is to create engaging and alluring spaces — we’re calling them pods — where students can come and charge up their cell phones and do their work.”
The third floor will remain the Media Arts Center. In preparation for the renovation, the Electronic Media Program is already operating in its temporary home on the first floor of the Donahue Building.
The HCC Campus Store will temporarily relocate to the Donahue Building, with a focus on retail merchandise and school supplies. Textbook sales are now being handled by HCC’s online partner, MSB Direct.
The HCC cafeteria will remain open in its present location for the first two weeks of the spring semester. The Subway franchise now in the food court is being moved to the second floor of the Frost Building. Food service will be handled by increased offerings at the POD concession area on the first floor of Donahue, and the Forum Café on the second floor of the Fine & Performing Arts Building, and by the addition of high-end vending machines in the Kittredge Center and Bartley Center. When not in use for special events, the Picknelly Dining Room in the Frost Building will be open for students who want to sit and eat.
After the Culinary Arts program moves off campus into the new hospitality and culinary-arts center in downtown Holyoke, HCC Dining Services will be serving a larger menu of freshly cooked food for purchase in the dining room. In the renovated Campus Center, the food court and cafeteria will return to their present locations with a new look and configuration.