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.
What does this all of this mean for returning and new students?
While we all anticipate the new and valuable improvements to the learning experience and environment, you may rest assured that the 2017-18 academic year will be robust with challenging and formative learning with the same variety of courses taught by the same esteemed faculty. Most courses will be taught in the existing classrooms in the main building and students will continue to have access to the resources of the library with the same flexibility as before. While the evidence of construction will be hard to avoid, it is our goal to ensure a hospitable and effective learning environment for all of our students.
Where will students find staff and faculty who are key to their daily concerns? The offices of those individuals with whom students interact on a regular basis will remain easily accessible:
We will continue to worship each day in Mulder Chapel. For the next several months, the Community Kitchen has relocated to the United Methodist Church and to Hope Reformed Church, both just a few blocks away. We hope to have the Community Kitchen back on campus in early 2018.
It is our hope that all of the planning, strategizing, excitement and anticipation will override any of the inconveniences and commotion we might encounter as this project moves along. There will be drawings, photos, and regular updates to encourage us on the days when we might become weary.
We will look forward to your input as we learn and work together!