The Official Student Newspaper of Calvin College Since 1907
November 13, 2009
Volume 104, Issue 11
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Calvin has big plans for the updated commons building
  Enlarge Photo courtesy of calvin.edu

Students walking through Calvin’s campus can easily spot the new Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex or the work-in-progress Covenant Fine Arts Center, but few know that another building project is in the making, one that staff members hope will bring new meaning to the title “Campus Commons.”

The planned renovation of Commons Dining Hall and the Commons Annex will create one 120,000-square-foot building known as the Campus Commons that will serve as the “keystone of the whole campus,” college architect Frank Gorman says.

“Students checking out different campuses want to know two things: where they can hang out and where they can work out,” Gorman says. “But which of those two things do we do three times a day?”

The renovation of Commons is necessary, says Henry DeVries, vice president for administration, finance and information service, because Calvin needs “a single facility that serves as home to the entire campus.”

“Unlike many other institutions of our size, Calvin does not have a campus union or student center that serves everybody,” DeVries told The Spark in 2005.

The lack of space is due largely to the fact that Calvin has grown since Commons and the Commons Annex were built four decades ago; for example, the Commons Annex now must accommodate almost 60 student organizations, but when the building was built Calvin had only seven.

Student Michael Rodriguez told Chimes in 2007 that “for a school with as many student organizations as Calvin has, the few closet-sized spaces we currently have don’t cut it.”

The new Campus Commons building would give students more space to “hang out,” Gorman says, both in informal groups and student organizations.

If the project unfolds as planned, the new Campus Commons will feature lounge areas for students on all three levels of the building as well as more spaces to serve as permanent homes for student organizations.

The Bookstore, Student Development office, and Service Learning Center would all find new and updated homes in the building as well.

But Gorman points out that it is not enough for students simply to hang out in the social sense of the word; “hanging out” also involves interacting over food.

“Food is at the center of our lives,” he says.

The new Campus Commons will feature an updated food service system to serve Calvin students in a more efficient manner.

Shirley Hoogstra, vice president for student life, spoke to Chimes in 2007 and pointed out the fact that Commons Dining Hall serves students using facilities built in 1967.

“We serve over one million meals a year,” she said. “The food delivery is antiquated.”

In addition to a new central kitchen for Creative Dining Services, the Campus Commons building will feature an updated Johnny’s Café and new areas including a pizzeria, a bakery, and a coffee shop.

The main eating area will also contain an updated 800 to 1,000 seats and a serving area with food options such as vegetarian and daily specials localized in one spot, an improvement on the scattered serving system found in Commons Dining Hall currently.

The plan also features building bridges from the Campus Commons to probably first the Covenant Fine Arts Center and then possibly later the Hekman Library, which Gorman hopes would add to the interconnectivity ofthe campus.

Guests attending the January Series in the Covenant Fine Arts Center might come over to the Campus Commons for a meal and discussion afterwards, or families might swing by for a snack before attending a basketball game.

The new building has been planned since 2004, and $25 million was raised for the project during The Campaign for Calvin College, but the project has yet to be given a start date because costs have increased since The Campaign ended.

Gorman is hopeful, though, that the project will be started “as soon as we have the money.”

He estimates the remodel will take 18 months, and it will also involve closing and remodeling the current buildings in sections to minimize the effects of a closed dining hall on the student body.

 
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