Cottages may be razed for bookstore

By Lauryn Gutierrez

The inconvenient, warehouse-like space in the Lampert building-where Macalester students have purchased textbooks for the past five years-was intended to be temporary, and last December, student response to an e-mail survey demonstrated overwhelming interest in a new bookstore.The Bookstore Advisory Committee has been considering options for the construction of a new Macalester bookstore since its formation last May and is working on a plan that could relocate the bookstore and expand the services it offers.

Doug Rosenberg and Kate Walker, administrators in budget and business services, are spearheading the project.

The BAC is an advisory committee composed of students, faculty, alumni, admissions and the dean of students, Jim Hoppe. It was formed to consider possible solutions to three key considerations for the project, Walker said.

Specifically, those considerations are Macalester’s options for consolidating and relocating the bookstore, financing the recommended solution and creating a reasonable time frame for completing the project.

In April 2008, to help in answering those questions, the BAC hired Campus Bookstore Consulting, an outside company that specializes in developing college bookstores.

Walker said that the bookstore will most likely be built at the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and Macalester Street, the current location of the student cottages. The cottages were initially slated for demolition in 1994.

“Until we had something better to do with the space,” Walker said, “it made sense to keep them operating and safe.”

Eva Beal ’11, a current resident of one of the cottages, expressed surprise when she heard about the projected fate of her living arrangement, but she said that losing the houses would not destroy any essential part of the college.

“I don’t see the cottages as central to the spirit of Macalester,” Beal said. What students would probably miss most if they are indeed demolished, she said, are the front lawns and the porches.

Walker said that if the bookstore can provide enough revenue, it can be an entirely self-funded project. The BAC considers funding in its efforts to avoid budgetary conflicts with construction of the Institute for Global Citizenship and the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.

The BAC is considering featuring apartment-style student housing above two storefronts. The bookstore would face Macalester Street. Another storefront, facing Grand Avenue, would be available for rental to retailers.

Rosenberg said that his main wish for the new bookstore is that it be of the same caliber as the rest of the institution, “rooted in and true to the institution’s values.”

He said that the BAC is looking to deliver a college bookstore similar to what people looked at when touring other colleges-a store that features college-branded merchandise in addition to books.

The Highlander, the only store currently featuring Macalester merchandise, would be combined with the new bookstore, leaving open space in the Campus Center basement that could be used by student organizations.

Walker said that she would like the bookstore to feature a wider variety of Macalester merchandise, textbooks and publications by Macalester alumni and professors.

The timeline for the project remains unclear. Both Rosenberg and Walker are hopeful it will be completed in the next two to three years. Momentum is building and the final report from Campus Bookstore Consulting comes later this month.

“The message is clear,” Walker said “that something needs to be done, at all levels and from all voices.