NMC to revamp West Hall

A sketch of what Northwestern Michigan College's West Hall is slated to look like after renovations. Construction is slated to begin on the building by May 2018.

TRAVERSE CITY — Innovative, modern and welcoming.

Northwestern Michigan College officials use the words to paint a picture of West Hall after a $20 million face-lift planned for next year. The 50-year-old building, which currently houses a number of student resources at the heart of NMC's main campus, will be hardly recognizable come its slated reopening in fall 2019.

The building will undergo a slew of renovations, with the final product featuring a new library and a learning space billed as the "21st Century Innovation Center."

That innovation center will be the main focus at an estimated $14.4 million price tag, half of which will come from the state's 2018 budget approved this summer. The center will feature labs, classrooms and study spaces that are more adaptable to different learning styles, said Vicki Cook, vice president of finance and administration at NMC.

"As students' projects change and evolve, the space they work in needs to change and evolve as well," she said.

That translates to features like movable chairs, desks and whiteboards; walls students can write on; and technology that allows students to connect with other classrooms around the world. West Hall will also feature a new $6 million library on its second floor, which NMC will foot the bill for.

Students can expect to enjoy extended operation hours for both.

"We've heard from students that they like to work at different times based on personal choice or working schedule, so we wanted to give them that opportunity," Cook said.

Students currently have to work within the hours of Osterlin Library, which closes at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. Cook said West Hall's operation hours haven't been determined, but confirmed it will surpass the Osterlin Library with the goal of eventually operating 24/7.

"The goal is to have this be the lead accessible building seven days a week," Cook said.

West Hall currently houses NMC's bookstore, cafeteria, veteran's lounge, student center, radio station and student life organizations. But only the cafeteria and a scaled-back bookstore will remain in the building after renovations, Cook said.

"The rest will probably be relocated to other areas on campus," she said.

Construction on West Hall is slated to begin by May 2018, but sketches offer an idea of what the 58,000-square-foot building will look like. Steve Jelinek, project designer at Stantec architectural firm, chose materials like stone, glass and metal for the building's exterior.

"We’re using the stone to signal a kind of ... welcome from afar. We're using glass and metal to signal innovation," Jelinek said to NMC board members in an August meeting.

Cook expects NMC will request construction proposals for West Hall by December. The building will include 29 different spaces, including three classrooms that hold 24 students each and two learning labs that hold 30 students each. The rest will be "breakout spaces" for smaller study groups.

"There's a multitude of different-sized breakout spaces," Cook said. "It enables our students to do project-based work, taking a room over for perhaps a couple weeks or up to an entire semester."

A three-story atrium will run throughout the building to offer natural light to each floor, Jelinek said. The goal is for classrooms, study centers and the library to mesh in an open layout that seamlessly connects one space to the next.

"It’s important for us that this isn’t a library, it’s not an innovation center, but it’s all one adhesive building working together," Jelinek said.

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