Without disparaging anyone, most of all, Gunner Birkerts, the architect, the concourse of today is not inviting and useful, not the “Central Park” that the college desires. To address this opportunity to improve the campus, the Board of Trustees has approved a $2.2 million dollar USDA Rural Development loan to fund the total renovation of the concourse. ARKOS Design from Mishawaka, Indiana, created the design for the project and Frederick Construction, Inc., from Vicksburg, Michigan was selected as the general contractor.
Construction is now under way, and the excitement on campus is growing. The total re-visioning of the space provides for the raw concrete or brown blocks to be being replaced by drywall, metal and wood-like finishes. The great tall center ceiling will be camouflaged by a “wave” effect of LED lighting and forms. There will be expanded restrooms in the “Health and Wellness” end of the space and a small art gallery on the art studio end. The café will be moved to the southeast corner from the southwest corner. Three new glass walled meeting rooms and gathering spaces are being created. The west side will be used for recreation including the always popular ping-pong and billboards with new “video and TV” areas.
Perhaps the most startling feature will be the removal of the four-foot high concrete railings around the grand central stairways. They will be replaced with glass and wood railing producing a much more open feeling. The current concrete wall and stairwell that meet one entering from the Ward Student Success Center will be replaced by reconfigured stairs from the left and right to the second level landing. They will also have glass and wood railings making it possible to see all the way up into the concourse from below. Never again will one come to the end of the entry hall and ask “which way do I go?”
As the reader can envision, the once cold, dark gathering place will be bright, warm and exciting. I venture to say that those who come to the campus in the future they will say, “Oh my, what an amazing space!”