Facilities and Service Management

Hatcher Learning Commons

Follow along with one of the most transformative building projects to come to Alma College in years — a complete modernization of the existing library into a state-of-the-art Hatcher Learning Commons.

Construction updates

January 2023

We were so pleased on Jan. 25 to open the doors of the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons to students for the very first time. Within these walls is the new center of student life on campus: a place for conversation to be shared, knowledge to be acquired, and students to grow in our mission.

Our exceptional Student Affairs team put together a celebration to welcome students into their new state-of-the-art academic center. Tours of the new space, along with food and a photo booth for social media, were available to students as they took everything in. The Alma College Library staff, who dutifully moved our collection of books into the new space during winter break, were available to help students on their first day in the new facility.

Immediately, we could see dividends. Students in the Model United Nations group were using private study spaces to catch up on their homework after a long night of working together on group projects. In one of the common areas for student collaboration, an intern with the Career and Personal Development Office was helping another student write their resume. Alma College staff from several offices moved into their bright, new spaces, ready to welcome students.

We’re looking forward to seeing the Digital Media Commons — space for creatives in audio, video and photography to do great work — open up to students soon. Our Instagram Stories are lighting up with selfies taken from the top of our 35-foot-tall glass beacon staircase, which offers a vista view of campus from a cozy study room, with a fireplace and new furniture. The Hatcher Learning Commons is quickly turning into the heart of campus we always imagined it to be.

We still have some time to go before the facility is completely finished. Our long-awaited Loch Lomond cafe, home of the Qdoba restaurant, will open in March, and landscaping can only take place when the weather improves.

November 2022

Work continued on the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons construction project in November, with an end goal of moving furniture and books into the structure by December well within reach. One of the biggest milestones for the month was the completion of glass walls in the beacon, a 35-foot-tall staircase that ascends from the ground floor to the top floor of the building. With the building’s centerpiece finalized, crews can begin to fill out the rest of the Learning Commons — a welcoming and safe structure, easy to get in and get out of.

Beyond the glasswork, construction continues at a rapid pace. Systems such as heating, cooling and electrical have been installed and successfully tested. Painting is finished on the lower levels and will soon be complete upstairs. Exterior work on sanitary and storm drains started this month and are expected to be finished soon. Emergency generators were wired in this month.

We are looking forward to having a finished building, ready for occupancy, by early next year!

October 2022

Fresh off the heels of our exciting announcement regarding the naming of the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons, we are seeing incredible progress on the construction process. Most notable for the month of October was the near-completion of glass walls in the 35-foot-tall beacon, which drew the attention of all who walked by this past month.

One of the most distinctive exterior features of the new Hatcher Learning Commons is our glass beacon, a 35-foot-tall staircase that ascends from the ground floor to the top floor of the building. The beacon’s transparency is a signal to all who enter that we are ready to make an impact on the world, with a clear vision of what is happening both indoors and outside. Higher in energy efficiency than previous glass in the building, these new walls will allow for more natural light to come into what was once a dark and outdated area.

For our construction crews on-site, October was a milestone for the installation of weather sealing, a crucial component of the project considering the season. They say our Learning Commons beacon is unique in their line of work for its completely frameless look, which further signifies just how transparent this structure is.

Beyond the glasswork, construction continues at a rapid pace. Systems such as heating, cooling and electrical have been installed and are being tested in the first week of November. Painting is close to finished on the main floor and will soon begin upstairs, as soon as the top-floor textured ceiling is finished.

The walls for our Qdoba Mexican Eats restaurant have been put up and construction has begun on the kitchen area. By December, we expect our food vendor to start bringing in equipment! This help showcase the area as a true student union — a place for our campus community to spend time studying, eating and getting together.

Work on the exterior site surrounding the Learning Commons will likely continue into the springtime, on account of the cold Michigan winter. But we’re looking forward to beginning the move-in process, possibly before Christmas. It has been an incredible year, with so much more yet to come.

September 2022

The month of September brought with it a big milestone in the Learning Commons project, which is the official naming of the renovated building. The Learning Commons will be known as the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons, reflecting the generous gift from Greg Hatcher ’83, now the largest alumni donor in college history.

Many of us know Greg as an ardent supporter of athletics, toward which he has also been deeply generous. Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, Hatcher is the CEO of The Hatcher Agency, the largest health insurance agency in Arkansas. ​Greg has been a member of the college Board of Trustees since 2008, and is also a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame. He was a member of three Hall of Fame wrestling teams, a member of two Hall of Fame baseball teams, and played on six MIAA Championship teams; three in wrestling and three in baseball. The Hatcher Wrestling Room in the Hogan Center already bears his name.

We are so appreciative of this incredible show of support, which has allowed the Learning Commons vision to come to life — something that supports the academic core of the institution: the liberal arts, faculty and student relationships, small classes and interdisciplinary learning. This gift, and the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons, telegraphs that value to all who walk through its doors.

Apart from this historic naming milestone, construction continued at its fast pace. The big story in September was glass walls beginning to be installed in the 35-foot-tall beacon — the glass that shows all of the possibility inside the Learning Commons.

With the installation of the beacon walls, glasswork will be close to finished on the Learning Commons project. Higher in energy efficiency than previous glass in the building, these new walls will allow for more transparency and natural light to come into what was once a dark and outdated area.

Even beyond the glasswork, you can start to see the Learning Commons project taking shape. Utilities like water and electricity are expected to be complete next month. Painting is currently taking place on the lower floors and will soon move to the top. Light fixtures and carpeting will be installed next and restrooms are nearing completion. It’s becoming easier to imagine students, faculty and staff utilizing these spaces for learning, creating and gathering.

August 2022

In August, students returned to campus for the start of Fall Term, and progress continued on the Learning Commons construction project. As passersby walked to class and watched, the 35-foot-tall beacon — the window that shows all of the possibility inside of the Learning Commons — began to take shape.

One of the most notable advances to the Learning Commons project in August was window frames going into the east side of the building, facing McIntyre Mall. Windows are being replaced on all three floors, on the North and East sides of the building and a number of new windows are being added on the south side. With a focus on energy efficiency, these new windows will allow for more transparency and natural light to come into what was once a dark and outdated area.

Meanwhile, the skeleton frame of the steel “beacon” has started to be filled in. You’ll recall how, in June and July, steel beams were put up at the new entrance space near McIntyre Mall. In August, those beams saw the addition of concrete flooring being poured, providing the foundation for what will become the new entrance to the Learning Commons. After Labor Day, we expect the laying of spectacular glass walls s all around the beacon. We can’t wait for you to see it.

Work continues on painting, electrical and ceilings on the interior, and drywall installation is getting closer to completion. The vision of the Learning Commons, to have students, faculty and staff working on any number of projects at the same time under the same roof, is coming into focus.

Elsewhere, excavation work for the new steps and amphitheater-style seating, on the northeast side of the building, is in full effect. Crews expect to begin working more on it in the month of September. When complete, it will become an outdoor gathering for lectures, performances or any number of uses.

June/July 2022

The Learning Commons project is seeing tremendous progress, with our opening on-track for early 2023. The months of June and July have brought with them the steel that will become the building’s entrance, the drywall that will create spaces to gather, and even the paint that will decorate the space!

One of the most notable advances to the Learning Commons project took place in the month of June, when steel beams measuring at least 35 feet in height were put up at the entrance space near McIntyre Mall. This development brought with it the massive construction equipment that we haven’t seen on campus in some time — an inspiring sight for everyone that brought to mind the truly transformative nature of this project.

The steel for the “beacon,” as it’s called, was completed in July, with concrete expected to be poured in early August. In September, we’ll start to see the beacon surrounded in glass. This will allow people outside to see what’s happening in the Learning Commons, and those inside to enjoy beautiful views of campus.

Speaking of glass, new windows are also set to be installed on every floor before the summer is over. Construction crews increased the sizes of some windows to make them “curtain wall” style. The goal is to increase transparency as much as possible.

Portions of drywall are complete on every floor. Those who have been fortunate enough to walk through the construction site since our groundbreaking ceremony in May have remarked how much progress has taken place since groundbreaking. Painting has even begun on the ground floor. New boilers, which will heat the building in the cold winter months, were also installed this summer.

Students, staff and faculty were all excited in June when it was announced that Qdoba Mexican Eats will be moving into the first floor space we have designed for a cafe in the Learning Commons. Qdoba’s brand of Mexican-inspired cuisine is very popular for its lack of processed ingredients and fresh flavors, and its fast-casual dining setup is a perfect fit for our new student union style building on campus.

May 2022

The month of May was marked by a ceremonial groundbreaking event, held to commemorate the philanthropy that made the Learning Commons project possible and the progress that has been thus far.

We were so pleased to welcome students, staff, faculty, members of the Board of Trustees, the community, the press … the list goes on … to the campus of Alma College on May 6 for a ceremonial groundbreaking event. Alma College President Jeff Abernathy, Board of Trustees President Eric Blackhurst ’83, and board member John Wilson ’90 were among the speakers, helping to provide us with the vision and the history of how far we’ve come on this transformative project. We also heard from a student, Class of 2022 graduate Luke Losie, who gave his perspective on the ways in which the Learning Commons will improve the lives of Scots for many years to come.

“As the center of campus, the library has on one hand served as a meeting place for students keen to collaborate with one another, and on the other hand, a refuge for those seeking solitude and quiet,” Luke said. “It is the recognition of these contradictory needs that endows this new facility with so much hope.

“Classrooms, meeting spaces, offices, and open areas, beyond what the library already had, will reinvigorate the teamwork and collaboration that this college prioritizes. And, for many students who have never been to the library, or who will be enrolling in the future, this new project will encapsulate the spirit of Alma.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Apart from the ceremony, work continues going full-throttle. Drywall is currently being put up on the ground floor, which means that soon, we’ll be able to see the vision become reality. Interior work is advancing on all levels. During the last week of May, crews began erecting steel for the new beacon. Next month will likely bring work on the amphitheater.

April 2022

The month of April was a milestone in the Learning Commons project as demolition of the Stacks began in earnest. The transformative vision of the Learning Commons is starting to come into focus.

Students, faculty and staff could be seen throughout the month of April taking a momentary pause on their route between the Hood Building and Swanson Academic Center to watch the demolition of the Stacks. Demolition of this exterior area, with classes still in session, posed a potential challenge, as it meant a lot of pedestrians would be passing through. However, our main construction contractor, Granger Construction, went about this process in a very careful way, using a pulverize attachment on an excavator to knock debris straight down in smaller, crushed segments — instead of using something dramatic like a wrecking ball. Demolition will be complete in early May.

In place of the Stacks, there will be additional windows and an entrance from the south side of the building, adding much needed light and accessibility. From the new south entrance, you will be able to walk directly through the Learning Commons to the north side where Clack Art Center is located.

What comes after demolition? Contractors have begun pouring concrete for footings at the northeast corner of the building (think: McIntyre Mall entrance) where a new, three-story glass entrance will be built. There will also be a new amphitheater just north of the library and a bridge leading to the front entrance of the library. This will become an aesthetically striking area of the campus when complete — something we can all see and be proud of every day.

March 2022

This March 2022 shows demolition of the pre-existing Alma College Library building.The exterior demolition part of the project is drawing a lot of attention — for good reason. The construction is taking place in the heart of campus, so excavators and major construction equipment of its kind are bound to draw attention. Lately, students, staff and faculty have turned out in-person to McIntyre Mall to witness the demolition of the covered side stairwell and main-level sidewalk bridge.

In the next couple of weeks, exterior demolition will conclude in the McIntyre Mall area and proceed to the south portion of the building, including the “the stacks.” As far as the interior goes, we’ll soon see mechanical, electrical and plumbing work begin. Ductwork installation and wall framing started this month, as well.

February 2022

Orange carpeting on the third floor of the Library is pictured. Orange carpeting on the third floor of the Library is pictured.Construction fencing was implemented around the perimeter of the Library, extending out to the Reid-Knox Administration Building parking lot. This helps keep students, staff, faculty and the public safe and away from construction equipment.

The process of removing materials, and sometimes walls, began in earnest. Dumpsters were installed outside of the construction site to house everything in. As much as we all liked the bright orange carpeting on the third floor of the library, it was time for it to be replaced.

Old light fixtures were removed. We are saving as many of these items for recycling as we possibly can. Abatement was scheduled and took place.