HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College is about to embark on a $43.5 million renovation of its Campus Center building that officials say will create a new “front door” for campus when complete in two years.
The three-story Campus Center in the middle of campus will close in February for the ambitious project that officials say will be transformed into a hub of activities and services for students.
Since it opened in 1980, the center has been plagued by water leaks. For the past eight years, plans to waterproof the building have been delayed.
Interim President Bill Fogarty said in a press release that the leaks are the main impetus for the renovation, but that the college also wanted to make upgrades to make the building a “real campus center.”
The project calls for the 58,727-square-foot building to expand by 9,000 square feet, which will allow room for more resources and making the space a “Welcome Center” for the campus.
The key features of the project include squaring off the building’s sloping facade and giving the entire building a new exterior shell that will make it both weather tight and energy efficient.
The squaring off and the addition of large windows on its eastern side will give the building a look similar to that of the adjacent Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development.
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.
The campus center is scheduled to reopen in 2019.
The building sits in the middle of campus between a stream choked with invasive plants and the HCC courtyard. Currently, the center is home to the college’s dining hall, Campus Bookstore and classroom space.
The first floor of the 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.
The new building will house admissions, assessment services for college placement testing and the ACT Center of advising, and career and transfer affairs — services that are currently located in the Frost Building.
Programs and departments focused on student engagement such as student activities, student clubs and multicultural academic services are currently scattered throughout campus, but are planned to be relocated to the center as well.
The Campus Bookstore is planned to downsize, focusing on retail merchandise and school supplies as students will now use electronic textbooks, and move to the second floor of the building.
“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,” Fogarty said in the press release. “They all complement each other. It will give it a real feel of a campus center.”
Some of the classrooms will be opened to make more room for student engagement areas.
“The idea is to create engaging and alluring spaces — we’re calling them pods — where students can come and charge their cell phones,” Michelle Snizek, director of Retention and Student Success, said in the press release.
Along with remodeling the interior of the building, the college plans to reconfigure traffic flow to create a new bus drop in the front of campus and add a parking lot for admissions. Environmental studies students will work to restore the brook.
Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.