Campus Complete Just In Time

    BENTON TOWNSHIP — Officials at the brand-new South Haven campus of Lake Michigan College really haven’t had a chance to draw a breath.

    The new two-story building in the city’s I-196 Business Park only opened to movers a month ago. A community reception and media day were scheduled the same week and the first classes convened Monday, Aug. 25.

    Anne Erdman, vice president of administrative services and special assistant to the president, said the schedule couldn’t have worked if it weren’t for Houseman Construction, of Grand Rapids, the general contractor.

    She said the firm had to work at a 24/7 pace during part of the project.

    “We came into this with a very tight timeline for completion,” Erdman said. “They developed a sound plan in the early stages that kept things on budget and on schedule.”

    She said the college was impressed with Houseman’s willingness to communicate with officials throughout the eight-month construction schedule.

    “They’ve been sensitive to our need for information, supporting our ability to plan other aspects of the project prior to the campus opening.”

    Houseman built the facility — a 42,000-square-foot building — on a 22-acre parcel which the City of South Haven donated to the college. The project cost $7.8 million, half the money funded by a grant from the State of Michigan.

    Grand Rapids-based architects Progressive AE designed the structure with 12 general classrooms, a 24-station computer lab and a site for a privately operated preschool and child care center. Two classrooms and a separate office are dedicated for the campus’s Western Michigan University extension.

    The campus also has two science labs, separate studios for art and graphic design, and a two-way interactive classroom.

    The interactive classroom enables students to participate in courses with students and instructors at LMC’s Napier Avenue and Bertrand Crossing campuses in Benton Harbor and Niles respectively. WMU enrollees also use the interactive classroom to take classes offered at Western’s main Kalamazoo campus.

    WMU students can take bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral courses at the South Haven campus.

    In addition to the interactive classroom, faculty and staff last week began introducing students to the building’s wireless computer network and multimedia classrooms with Internet access, DVD and video playback, and image projection capabilities — something that was a hyper-expensive novelty just five years ago.

    Brian Craig, AIA, senior vice president and project design principal, said the campus integrates technology with an environment that promotes accessibility, learning and flexibility. He said modular furniture, expandable classrooms, and a commons area that can serve several functions are just a few of the innovations incorporated into the building.

    Erdman told the Business Journal the timeline for the project was demanding.

    Progressive AE embarked on fact-finding and constituent interviews right after the election, presenting a final design for the facility in November.

    Kalin Construction of Eau Claire, began site work in December, and in January, Houseman began construction.

    Erdman said Progressive AE and Houseman demonstrated exceptional coordination and communication with the college from day one.

    “Construction began just eight short months ago,” she said, noting that springtime presented weather delays that had the college’s staff in a state of high anxiety. A failure of the construction schedule would have pushed back the opening of classes a full semester, meaning disappointment for students and a muddle in faculty and administrative hiring.

    “Everyone understood the unique timelines we faced to ensure the campus would be ready for the grand opening and open for fall classes,” Erdman said. “They focused on the critical path to make everything happen.”

    Speaking at the opening of the campus were Congressman Fred Upton; State Sen. Ron Jelinek; Judith Bailey, Western Michigan University president; Dale Lewis, mayor of South Haven; Ross Stein, supervisor of South Haven Charter Township; Larry King, executive director of the Greater South Haven Chamber of Commerce; Ron Hartgerink, retired president of Wycoff Chemical Co.; Richard J. Pappas, LMC president; and Janice Varney, executive dean at LMC at South Haven.

    “The state-of-the-art environment of this campus will truly make it a centerpiece for the community and a model for other institutions of higher learning,” Varney said.

    “One of the things we are so excited about is how the design of the building is going to allow us to serve our students in numerous ways through technology.”   

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