University completes $34M renovation of student center


A look inside the multi-purpose FSU University Center for students after a $34-million renovation. Courtesy FSU

A university is enjoying its renovated student center in the heart of its campus — after embarking on the $34-million project about three years ago.

Ferris State University in Big Rapids said that last week it officially opened the doors of its renovated University Center — formerly the Rankin Student Center, which was originally built in 1957.

Construction began in June 2012 and was handled by Christman and based on designs from Neumann/Smith Architects to create a modern-style building.

The project is “mostly complete.” Over the next two to three weeks, “a few minor items need to be finished.”

Campus “living room”

Mike Hughes, associate VP of the Physical Plant at FSU, said the renovated center has been a dream for close to 20 years and became a priority when President David Eisler came to campus.

“The concept of the building is really to be like a living room for the campus — a place for students to hang out, a place for the students and community to eat and meet,” Hughes said.

The renovated center features various elements: space for meetings, studying and socializing; upgrades to the building exterior and interior; energy-efficient plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems; 500 additional parking spaces for improved access; and a 6,000-square-foot Quad Café.

The Quad Café is meant to complement and reduce congestion at the existing Rock Café and is designed to encourage student interactions with both family style and individual seating areas.

Several fireplaces were also installed at the center, with repurposed limestone from the Masselink residence halls above the main fireplace. Both Carlislie and Masselink residence halls were demolished as part of the renovation project.

Community space

Mark Schuelke, director of the University Center, said the building is meant to be a place for the greater Big Rapids community.

“This facility was set up to be a University Center, so that doesn’t just mean Ferris,” Schuelke said. “The facility is accessible to the greater Big Rapids community. For example, you have the dining area, the Barnes and Nobles Bookstore and Starbucks.”


Renovating the former Rankin Student Center, which received additions in 1960 and 1987, was identified as a priority in the university facilities plan after the University Center Renovation Visioning Task Force began a dialogue about the project in late 2011.

The project outline was approved by the President’s Council in October 2012, and the spending was approved in late 2012 by the Board of Trustees. As of December 2012, roughly $16 million was on hand for financing, with the remaining funds derived through tax-exempt bonds, according to a Business Journal article. 

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