'This is breathtaking'
Governor helps celebrate Campus Center grand opening
Gov. Charlie Baker helped celebrate the grand opening of the HCC Campus Center Friday, touring the newly renovated facility, talking to students, and offering praise for the finished product.
"One of the things that makes space like this so important and precious is it gives young people a place to call their own," he said. "This is breathtaking."
During remarks preceding the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the 66,000-square-foot building following a two-year, $43.5 million renovation and expansion, Baker recalled the last time he had set foot inside – 2015 – and marveled at the improvements.
"The amount of light and open space it has now and the areas for collaborative thinking and engaging is astonishing," he said. "It speaks volumes about how important a space like this can be on a college campus, and it also speaks to one of our objectives, which is to take old space and make it new. This is one of the best examples I have seen anywhere in the Commonwealth."
The Campus Center originally opened in 1978 and had been plagued by leaks and water damage for decades before it was closed for reconstruction in 2017. The lower two floors of the building were gutted down to its concrete foundation and supports before being rebuilt. It reopened for the start of the fall 2019 semester while construction crews continued the finish work.
Key parts of the project included adding about 9,000 square feet, enclosing an external walkway on the second floor to expand the dining area, squaring off the sloping façade, installing tall windows, encapsulating the entire building in a water-tight seal, adding an atrium entrance off the HCC Courtyard on the west side and a bridge over Tannery Brook that leads from a dedicated visitors parking lot to a first-floor welcome center, where visitors and students will find easy access to HCC's offices of Admissions, Advising, Careers, Transfer and Testing. The second floor features the HCC Food Court and dining areas, a Student Engagement wing that now houses the College Store, Student Activities, Student Clubs, Student Senate offices and El Centro, home to HCC's Multicultural Academic Services program, along with study and student lounge areas.
President Christina Royal called the building the "heartbeat" of the campus. "It's a dining room, living room, study room, play room and launching pad to a college degree and brighter future for hundreds of students every day," she said.
"What a transformation to now see the heartbeat restored and more beautiful than ever," she said. "This is all part of making HCC the best version of itself. Our students deserve environments where they feel safe, welcome, inspired and worthy."
Student speaker Maiv Lee-Ruiz talked about touring the Campus Center in 2016 when she first enrolled and at the time thinking, "This place is dark."
"I don't want to describe the building as old or outdated," said the liberal arts major from Holyoke. "I thought of it as mature, previously loved, vintage. The halls were gloomy and felt like a cave."
Now, she said, "The whole building feels light, open and spacious, kind of like an Apple Store."
From his perspective working in commercial real estate and property management, HCC trustee Evan Plotkin said the new facility is a great success."I believe first impressions are everything," he said. "This space makes me want to be here. When we address building issues and make advancements and efficiencies, we are creating a physical environment that helps students feel proud, one that gets them excited to learn, and that keeps them coming back."
PHOTOS by MICHAEL GORDON: (Thumbnail) Gov. Baker offers praise for the HCC Campus Center following a $43.5 million renovation and expansion. (Above) President Christina Royal, Gov. Charlie Baker and others cut the ribbon to officially open the HCC Campus Center.