Holyoke Community College is about to embark on a two-year $43.5 million renovation project that will utterly transform the look, feel and organization of the campus.
The HCC Campus Center is scheduled to close Feb. 3, 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 facing Homestead Avenue, between an intermittent stream choked with invasive plants and the HCC Courtyard. Since it opened in 1980, it 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."
To that end, the building's sloping facade, a primary source of leaks, will be squared off, and the building encased in a new envelope that will make it both weather-tight and energy efficient.
The squaring off and the addition of large windows will give the building a look that complements the adjacent Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, which opened in 2003. The project will also add about 9,000 square feet of space to the current 58,727.
An atrium will be added to the western side, 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 eastern side of the building, the open balcony on the second floor will be enclosed, adding much-needed square footage to the dining area of the cafeteria.
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 walkway to be built over a restored Tannery Brook. HCC Admissions, Assessment Services (college placement testing) and the ACT Center (Advising, Career and Transfer Affairs) will relocate from the Frost Building to this 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.
"We want to make it real easy for people who aren't familiar with the campus to find their way around," Fogarty said.
The current bus drop by the pole, on the far side of campus next to the visitors' parking lot, is now the area preferred for drivers picking up and dropping off students.
"This was all built when we had 2,500 students and it just doesn't work anymore," Fogarty said. HCC's current full- and part-time enrollment is now nearly 9,000.
In the new design, the College 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. This area will also 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 College Store up to the second floor, so that it's on the same level as dining services and Student Activities, really made sense in terms of foot traffic," said Fogarty. "They all complement each other. It gives 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 differently, much more open and inviting," said Michelle Snizek, director of Retention and Student Success. "Not so much offices and chunked up spaces like we have now. 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 Bookstore will close for the semester on Dec. 23. It will reopen on Tues., Jan. 3, in Donahue 154, as the HCC College Store, with a focus on retail merchandise and school supplies. Textbook sales are now being handled by HCC's online partner MSB Direct. More information about that is available on the HCC web site: http://www.hcc.edu/campus-life/bookstore
The HCC cafeteria will remain open in its present location until Friday, Feb. 3, operating as usual for the first two weeks of the Spring semester. A Subway sandwich shop is scheduled to open on the second floor of the Frost Building in Room 251 on Monday, Jan. 30. Food service will be handled by increased offerings at The POD (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 (Frost 265) will be open for students who want to sit and eat.
For the Spring semester, the Culinary Arts kitchens in Frost will be shared by HCC Dining Services and the Culinary Arts program. After the Culinary Arts program moves off campus into the new hospitality and culinary arts center in downtown Holyoke, HCC Dining Services will be able to offer 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.
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.
Renderings from HTK Architects (Left) The east side of the renovated Campus Center will feature a walkway over a restored Tannery Brook that will be the new main entrance to the college. (Right) The Courtyard entrance to the Campus Center will include an enclosed atrium with stairs descending into the lower levels of the building.