By Sean Chase
Against the backdrop of U.S. 31, Grand Rapids Community College and Ottawa County leaders unveiled the new Lakeshore campus, which was transformed from a department store, as part of a three-day event on Thursday, Aug. 19.
“This is such a historic day for our college,” said GRCC President Bill Pink. “We’ve been here over a 100-years in West Michigan, and what this means is we are becoming that much more responsive to our community. This facility for a long time, when you talk to people around here they will tell you this has been a long time coming.”
Two years in the making, the doors leading into the $12 million, 52,000-square-foot, JCPenney-turned Lakeshore campus, no longer open up to the clothing racks, mannequins and mirrors of a forgotten era. Instead, as you enter the building, your eyes are drawn, through the natural light flooding in from the skylights dotted throughout the roof, to the gigantic tooling and manufacturing machines at the back of the building.
The campus features nine classrooms, four computer labs and five more uniquely equipped labs, which will be used for electronics, biology, chemistry, welding, machine tooling and automation. While planning the project, Pink says the large main hallway was designed intentionally to allow the space to be used multiple ways, not excluding large community gatherings.
With the focus of the student experience in mind, there are a variety of different areas for students to study. These spaces range from cubicle-style couches and chairs embedded into the walls to private five-person meeting rooms, each of which is equipped with a TV. The space will also house advising and counseling services, as well as a satellite library.
“This place is crazy,” Pink said. “I would come out every few months, just to see how things were going and you start to see it take shape, but now to see it, it’s just overwhelming. To see all that come together and see what the result is, we’ll be showing this thing off for years, because the community will be able to use it.”
The Lakeshore Campus was designed by GMB Architecture + Engineering, with construction being handled by The Christman Co. For the Senior Project Superintendent of The Christman Co., York Tardy, things have come full circle with this project. After graduating from East Kentwood High School in 1989, Tardy attended Grand Rapids Junior College, before transferring to Grand Valley State University.
“It feels great,” Tardy said. “It’s a good sense of accomplishment to know that I’m one of the feature people, who, just like the speaker up there was talking about, I had the same thing, it was a financial decision I needed to make back then, and to have this here for the folks that live out here is great. I just feel blessed to be a part of that whole sequence of making it happen.”
While the Lakeshore Campus is new, the college has been serving the Lakeshore area for decades from four different locations. GRCC administrators hope that consolidating operations into one location will increase students’ access to higher education.
“Make no mistake this college is not making some entrance into Ottawa County, we’ve been here for a while already,” Pink said. “But the statement we make today and forward, is a statement of commitment from Grand Rapids Community College, from GRCC, now (with) the Lakeshore Campus being born, that this commitment not only remains, but this commitment is stronger than it ever has been.”
In addition to consolidating and improving facilities on the Lakeshore, when Pink visited the campus in the beginning phases of the project, he saw an added benefit for students in terms of access to campus in the form of the Macatawa Area Express (MAX) bus line. Route 4 of the MAX makes an hourly stop at the campus.
On top of Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, the Lakeshore Campus located at 12331 James Street, in Holland, will be holding events on Friday, Aug. 20, and Saturday, Aug. 21, to continue showing the Lakeshore Campus to the community.
“This is so cool because what Saturday will be is the open house for this community,” Pink said. “So today and tomorrow, we have some events for specific groups. Tonight for alumni, alumni who live out here are going to be able to see the space. (Friday morning) K-12 partners, come see the space. Saturday, that open house is for this whole community to see what their community college looks like. So, that open house will allow them to come look at the space. It’ll allow them to come and get enrolled, come and get advisement, financial aid, we’ll have all of that available on Saturday. And so what it means is this community is gonna understand real fast the kinda resource they have in this facility.”
Fall classes at the Lakeshore Campus will begin on Monday, Aug. 30.