Northwestern College will break ground for its new learning commons during a 10:45 a.m. ceremony Monday, April 16. The public is invited to attend.
The groundbreaking, scheduled to coincide with the spring meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees, signals the official start of the project. Orange City crews, however, began preparatory work on the site in March, installing utilities and water and sewer lines. Following commencement on May 12, workers will tear down Granberg Hall to make room for the learning commons, and construction will begin.
The 58,000-square-foot learning commons—to be located just west of Christ Chapel—will cost approximately $14 million and will house the college’s library, academic support center, writing center, multimedia center and institutional technology help desk. It will be open for use in the fall of 2013.
“We are excited to officially commemorate the beginning of construction on the learning commons,” says President Greg Christy. “This building will transform how learning takes place at Northwestern. While the facility will be a beautiful addition to the campus, even more important is the programming planned for the building, which will further our academic goals and bring together several key student academic support services. This is the most significant facility to be built at Northwestern since Christ Chapel in the 1980s and it will have a lasting impact for generations of future students.”
A brief program during the groundbreaking will include remarks by Christy; Dr. Tim Schlak, director of the library; student Jackie Niewenhuis, a sophomore nursing major from Stickney, S.D.; and Orange City Mayor Les Douma. Also present will be the Orange City Ambassadors; Todd Moss, of Cannon Moss Brygger Architects in Sioux City, Iowa; and representatives of Gil Haugan Construction of Sioux Falls, S.D., the general contractor for the learning commons. In case of rain, the program will be held in Christ Chapel.
According to Jay Wielenga, vice president for advancement, successful fundraising efforts combined with lower-than-anticipated construction costs resulted in the decision to break ground this spring.
“We’re still asking individuals and businesses to consider a gift to the learning commons to help us complete funding,” he says. “That said, we’ve made wonderful progress. We consider it a great blessing to be moving forward with this project.”
The learning commons, Wielenga says, is a building that will serve all of the college’s students, “a gathering space for academic exercise,” as he calls it. “Traditional library services are a part of this building, but certainly not all of this building,” he explains.
“There’s an integration of function,” says Schlak, Northwestern’s library director. “We’re bringing key departments that are integral to what happens in the classroom and placing them in one convenient, accessible location.”
The learning commons, he says, will be geared toward the way students learn today, with more spaces that support collaboration and group projects. Located together, the various departments housed in the building will be better able to help students learn how to access information, evaluate that information, and synthesize it in their own writing and work.
Construction of the learning commons will also include the creation of a new campus entrance for Northwestern, to be located at the intersection of Central Avenue and 6th Street South. A tree-lined boulevard, fronted on either side by college signage, will extend south from 6th Street toward Zwemer Hall and end in a roundabout positioned between the learning commons and Christ Chapel.
“Orange City has a number of projects going on right now,” says Wielenga. “We’re excited to be a part of a community that’s growing. This is another project that will help make our town a great place to live.”