TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College is gearing up to begin transformation of West Hall into the new Innovation Center, its largest project in nearly 15 years.

West Hall, built in 1965, will see a complete renovation of about 13,000 square feet of space and will get about 25,000 square feet of new space.

The new technology-rich Innovation Center, when complete, will have several small student workspaces, simulation labs, conference rooms and classrooms that can be used by students in just about every program the college offers.

The Hawk Owl Cafe will remain in the building, though it will be moved to the Oleson Center during construction, and the bookstore will be permanently moved to the Health & Science Building. The radio station, WNMC-FM, also will remain in the building.

The Innovation Center will be home to a new library with expanded hours that may eventually lead to being open 24 hours a day, said Vicki Cook, vice president of finance and administration.

That's good news for freshman Ashkii Wilson, a business major who does much of his studying in the library. This is Wilson's first semester at NMC after spending the fall term at Michigan State University, where the main library is open for 24 hours on most weekdays.

Those longer hours are something Wilson got used to.

"Here it's a lot more difficult because I have to study at certain hours," he said. "Being open longer will be a great benefit to all students."

The $14.4 million renovation will begin by early June, with the goal of being open for the fall of 2019. The project is being 50 percent funded by the state, with NMC picking up the rest of the cost.

The $6 million library project is 100 percent funded by the college, Cook said.

Library Director Tina Ulrich says the librarians have mixed feelings about the Mark & Helen Osterlin Library moving out of the building that has been its home for decades.

"This library has such a history," Ulrich said. "There are just a lot of reasons to love this place. At the same time this is an old building. It's wearing out and it limits the services we can provide."

Plus, Ulrich is excited about the longer hours the new library will offer. The library now closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday and at 9 p.m. the rest of the week.

"Students have jobs and families," Ulrich said. "Closing at 9 p.m. just doesn't do the trick."

The updated hall will not have any offices, as it will be just for students, said Cook, whose office is now in the building.

"We envision no one department will own this," she said. "Having this all in one area — also with food here — helps us provide what students want and need when they're doing their learning activities."

The more intimate work spaces can be used by smaller groups of students working on longer projects. Upgraded technology will allow them to easily connect their devices to practice things like Power Point presentations.

"Those types of students need a place kind of like an office where they can work and plan and take over for the semester," Cook said.

Sophomore Alyssa Wycoff agrees, though the social work major will be at Central Michigan University before the work is done and won't reap the benefits of the renovation.

"I think it's a good idea because it does more for the students," Wycoff said.

The schematic designs for the renovation were done by Stantec, a downstate architectural firm. Cornerstone Architecture was awarded the contract for more detailed plans, and Spence Brothers is the contract manager.

Cornerstone has done a lot of work for NMC, including the Dennos Museum addition and construction of the North Hall student housing, Cook said.

Once the library has been moved, the empty building may be used to house student services such as advising, counseling, financial aid, student life and tutoring all in one place. It's a project that thus far has not been funded, Cook said.