With six shovels full of dirt, the construction of the new Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Center and the renovation of WTS officially began on May 9.
While our present reality includes the storage of thousands of books, the clearing of an entire floor of the library, and the well-ordered chaos of relocating the offices of 40 employees in a month, let’s turn our attention away from today to what the seminary will be in 2019 when the project is completed.
Holland Mayor Nancy De Boer speaks at the May 9 groundbreaking ceremony.
The crown jewel of the campus will be the Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Center, housing the entire Cook Library collection and providing plenty of collaborative and contemplative learning spaces. The Learning Center will dominate the eastern side of the building, and just outside, further east, will be a large green space where the old Cook Center for Theological Research stood. Those sitting on the second floor of the new Learning Center will have an unobstructed view of the Hope College campus. A patio on the north side of the building will be a popular gathering spot in temperate weather, and fireplaces inside will provide warmth during the winter months. The entire library collection will be housed in the new building, and there will be plenty of space for the collection to grow.
Associate Director of Development Dana Daniels passes out safety vests during the May 9 groundbreaking ceremony.
On the south side of the seminary, a new two story administrative wing will rise, providing a clear entrance to the building. The president’s office, the business office, student services, advancement, communications, and educational technology offices will be housed in the new administrative wing. The entryway will line up with the existing reception desk, and the second floor of the new wing will adjoin the second floor of the atrium. President Brown’s office will be by the front door of the seminary, providing maximum visibility and availability to the community.
Renovated classrooms will dominate the hallway that runs south of the new Learning Center. New windows and floors will be visible throughout the building, and at the western end of the seminary, a newly renovated kitchen and Commons area will make providing meals for guests much more efficient. The Community Kitchen (a soup kitchen that operates daily out of the seminary) will finally have adequate food storage and—at long last—the Commons will be air-conditioned.
With this project, every inch of the original seminary building from 1954 will be renovated and made functional for the decades to come.
Not so visible but of vital importance will be improvements to the seminary’s infrastructure, including significant upgrades of the mechanical systems. As a result of the project, the seminary will be much more energy efficient, and the entire building will meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Architecturally, the building will be one cohesive piece, all in the same Georgian Colonial style that has dominated the corner of 13th and College Avenue since the mid-1950s.
That’s 2019, and a whole lot of dust is going to fly between now and then. By the time you read this, demolition and construction will have begun, and a new, exciting future for Western will be emerging.