Construction plans should build community

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Recent progress in the work of Macalester’s Bookstore Advisory Committee (BAC) offers some reassuring news, and also presents an opportunity for the college to live out its stated commitment to civic engagement.First, there is the stated intention on the part of the BAC to fund construction of the bookstore through the current bookstore’s revenue so that it will not take precedence over the even more desperately needed and much larger scale process of renovating the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Complex. Though this plan will undoubtedly constrain the bookstore project, it also shows responsiveness and deference to community need.

While the funding situation will certainly limit the bookstore project in some ways, we hope the BAC keeps in mind not only the possibility of creative funding solutions, but the potential for creative community engagement.

Macalester has an opportunity to create a bookstore with appeal that extends beyond immediate student and faculty needs to serve the Macalester community in a broader sense. We have hopes for a general purpose independent bookstore-one that welcomes neighbors, staff, students and faculty.

With this in mind, Macalester needs to open a serious discussion on the current plan to feature apartment style student housing above two storefronts, one of which would face Grand Avenue and be available as commercial space, and the new bookstore on Macalester Street. Does Macalester really need more student housing, given the historical problem of filling empty dorm rooms? And what about space for students organizations?

While the Highlander would join the bookstore in the new building, possibly leaving space open in the basement of the campus center, it would be a more meaningful gesture for the college to consider the needs of student organizations and actually give them space in the snazzy new building that their book purchases are funding.

Let’s not forget that student groups like Mac Bike didn’t manage to get any space in the sprawling Leonard center (which does, however, have a Hall of Fame room).

Considering that plans for the construction of the bookstore originated in student responses to a survey, Macalester seems to be on the right track.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.