Lower level Campus Center plans for renovation

By Sean Ryan

New architectural design plans for the upcoming student lounge renovation were revealed by Campus Center staff on Wednesday at an open forum for students. Cindy Haarstad, the Director of Campus Center and Conferences, moderated the forum in conjunction with Jeffrey Geers, a project manager with Pope Architects, the firm hired to design and implement the project. The new plan, which is only in the schematic stage, includes an extension of the lounge space to include most of the lower level of the Campus Center, excluding John B. Davis Auditorium and Mailing Services. The current student lounge is approximately 1,500 square feet, while the newly renovated design includes over 3,000 square feet, taking up the entirety of the old Highlander space while also expanding into the lobby. It comprises a bar, a raised stage for student group performances, a seating area for performance attendees that can fit approximately 200 students and a lounge/TV area comparable to the student lounge as it currently exists. Booth alcoves will be built throughout the new space to serve as semi-private study places. The plan also includes the addition of bathrooms near the stage area, along with the consolidation of the two service windows used for Document and Mailing Services into one. “Last March, there began a conversation that the Highlander might be moving out of the lower level of the Campus Center and we started to have conversations about what do with that space, since there’s so much square footage there,” Haarstad said. “We formed a committee whose job was to ask that question and provide some answers. We did some focus groups to get some student feedback on what’s missing on campus and what students want to have.” The planning committee consists of Will Johnson ’13, Kyle Rosenberg ’13, Douglas Rosenberg, Director of Budget and Institutional Services and Emily Stuper, Hall Director. All members of the committee meet weekly with representatives from Pope Architects to collaboratively design the space around student needs while also taking into account practical considerations related to cost. After several months of meetings, the committee wrote a program statement to set the parameters for the new space, collectively deciding that student input should be the number one priority. “Students have described a need for a social space on campus, as well as a place for medium-sized events,” Haarstad said. “You have 10K and then the Kagin Ballroom and there’s nothing in-between. We need a space for hanging, socializing, group projects, eating, watching TV, relaxing, an open and bright space that students want to spend some time in.” Jeff Geers emphasized that Pope Architects is still in the schematic planning stage of the renovation process, and all plans are open to change and revision by students. “In terms of the scope of the architectural process, we have the schematic design, we make refinements, then blueprints, and then we ultimately build the design,” Geers said. “That’s why this is the best time for students to share their thoughts.” Both Geers and Haarstad expressed a desire to create a distinctly Macalester space that would be popular amongst all students. “We want this thing to feel open as a lounge,” Geers said. “One of our thoughts was to create some kind of portal through the wall like a graphic image, something that incorporated different attributes of Macalester.” “Since there are already several physical places on campus dedicated to internationalism, we decided it would be appropriate to highlight Macalester’s connection to Minnesota,” he said. “Every room in the new lounge could correspond to different elements of the state’s natural landscape.” As an example, Geers suggested designing the old lounge area to represent Minnesota winters by including walls made of reclaimed barnwood and a fireplace. Various food and drink options will be available at the bar, including coffee, ice cream, and other snacks previously available at the Highlander. “We’re talking with Bon Appétit about ways to place orders from the Grille downstairs and have them delivered down to students,” Haarstad said. The bar will not serve alcohol, however, because of concerns with state regulation. “Right now our Macalester liquor license doesn’t allow us to serve alcohol on a regular basis,” Haarstad said. “We’re looking to expand that, but at this point in time it won’t happen.” Neither Geers nor Haarstad speculated on the cost of the project, but Doug Rosenberg, Director of Budget and Institutional Services, outlined the basic process through which the project will be funded. “We will utilize reserve funds already available for the renovation,” Rosenberg said. “After that, it will be a financial decision for the Chief Financial Officer [David Wheaton] whether or not to borrow money, since it really depends on how much it costs.” The Highlander will finish moving to its new location in the Lampert Building on Snelling Avenue by the end of October, at which time construction of the new space is scheduled to begin. “We have an extremely aggressive timeline for completion of the project,” Haarstad said. “There are definitely obstacles to get through, but we want to be done by January so that the space can be utilized as early as spring semester.” “It’s so exciting to think about how this lower level could feel very different in the evening after renovation,” Haarstad said. “The lounge is so tucked away now, but it can really be a dynamic, open space. We want students to be here in the evening, come with their friends, and really make it their own.” Students who have suggestions for the new renovation or questions regarding the planning process can contact Cindy Haarstad, Director of Campus Center and Conferences, at [email protected] refresh –>