HOLYOKE — For now, it’s still, in the top left corner of the Campus Center roof.
But soon, that white steel beam will be hidden behind the building’s new façade. And there it will remain as long as the building stands, covered with the names of all the Holyoke Community College (HCC) students, faculty, staff, and construction workers who marked it before the beam was raised to its permanent home.
“Having the opportunity to sign this beam represents the last piece of the building that we’re erecting, the highest point,” said HCC President Christina Royal, “and while you won’t necessarily see it, everybody who signed it today, you’re leaving your imprint on history. And that’s what it is. This represents our history.”
Royal offered her remarks during a topping-off ceremony on Feb. 28 in front of the HCC Campus Center, now in the middle of a two-year, $43.5 million, top-to-bottom renovation. The building is expected to reopen for the fall 2019 semester.
Topping-off ceremonies are held before the last and highest beam is fixed to the frame of new buildings. Traditionally, the beam is painted white and signed by work crews and others involved in the project and adorned with a small evergreen tree and an American flag. The ceremonies are also meant to honor the construction workers, many of whom signed the beam.
The white beam was displayed outside the construction zone for a couple of hours before the ceremony so members of the HCC community would have a chance to sign it. By the time it was lifted, the 10-foot beam was covered with signatures written in green and black.
The nearly 40-year-old Campus Center was emptied and closed a year ago for the renovation. Since then, the first and second floors have been completely gutted, and reconstruction work has advanced significantly on both the interior and exterior. The renovation will add about 9,000 square feet to the 57,727-square-foot building.
The main changes include the squaring off of sloping surfaces and the addition of high windows on a new front façade to complement the look of the adjacent and more modern HCC Kittredge Center. The entire structure will be sealed in a watertight, energy-efficient envelope. A glass atrium entrance is being added to the campus-courtyard side of the building. An external balcony will be enclosed and the dining area extended on the second floor. A dedicated visitor parking lot will lead to a walkway bridge spanning a restored brook that was temporarily diverted underground.
The bridge will lead to a new main entrance and into a first-floor welcome center that will house the Admissions Office, Assessment Center, and Advising, Career and Transfer Center, which are all being relocated from the Frost Building.
A second floor student-engagement area will include the cafeteria and food court, the College Store (relocated from first floor); Student Activities and Student Clubs (relocated from the Donahue Building); Multicultural Academic Services (relocated from the Frost Building), and lounge areas with study pods and charging stations. The Electronic Media and Photography programs will return to the third-floor Media Arts Center, which is getting new ductwork, lighting, and ceilings.
“This Campus Center is a massive undertaking for the college,” Royal said. “It’s one of the largest footprints we have on campus. What’s so significant about this space is that it is for students, and this project will have a transformative effect as we bring offices together to help us better support and serve our students.”