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 Learning Commons.
Watch the construction live stream!
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efficiency, these new windows will allow for more transparency and natural light to come into what was once a dark and outdated area.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.