The sound of jackhammers digging through concrete on the Northeast campus next semester will be added to the regular cacophony of students rushing to and from classes. The upcoming construction project is the first of many on the to do list as the college begins the Campus Improvement Plan approved by Morris, Titus and Camp county voters last May.
A portion, $2.8 million, of the $19.9 million bond has been allocated for the first scheduled project, the replacement of the underground utility system.
Northeast President Dr. Brad Johnson said the new utility loop is just the beginning of what is being designed as a total makeover of NTCC.
“The look and feel of the campus will change quickly across an 18-month period of time,” Johnson said. “A campus designed for commuters, who come to campus for class and then go home to study, will become more of a destination campus. Improved spaces for people to hang out, interact with each other and engage in activities outside the classroom will be created across the campus.”
Students, faculty and staff may have recently observed the beginnings of the project, the white and orange lines and arrows painted on many of the sidewalks, as they walk around campus. Johnson said the lines mark the areas that construction workers will dig in order to access the underground pipes. The aging utility loop, which was put into place 30 years ago when the campus was built, will be removed and replaced with better functioning pipes.
But, as with all renovations the improvements to the college are going to require some messy modifications to the campus. In order to access the underground utilities, certain parts of the sidewalk will have to be excavated and removed. The flow of foot traffic in some areas of the campus will be completely diverted to other areas.
Johnson said the construction is expected to produce a sizeable ditch that will encircle much of the campus. He said alternative routes going around the ditch, and possibly bridges crossing over in some places, would have to be used in order to get to many of the buildings.
Although plans to begin the construction are underway, Johnson said the fall semester should be finished up before any of the digging begins.
“I’m not expecting students to notice anything until after the new year,” he said.
Northeast Vice-President of Student Advancement Dr. Jonathan McCullough called the roped off areas of construction that are expected to cover many areas over the next few months “a necessary inconvenience.”
“Right now our campus is laid out in a way that it’s really easy to get anywhere, and so we are sort of spoiled about how quick you can get to different places,” he said. “You may not be able to walk from the humanities building to the math/science building, which is right next door. You may have to go around the backside or around the LRC, I don’t really know yet. But if you’ve seen those painted lines across the campus, just envision those as being big concrete cutouts.”
McCullough said everyone should also expect the construction to move around quite a bit as work on the utility loop is being done. He said just as the work is finished up in one area, it would change to another.
“It’s going to be constantly moving,” he said. “You may show up in February of next year and you may not be able to walk between the student union building and the business technology building for example and then a month later you may be able to walk through there, but you can’t walk between the library and the administration building. It’s going to be a moving target of construction.”
While updating the underground utilities is the first project, Johnson said the Campus Improvement Plan is an initiative to improve the functionality, safety and overall appearance of the Northeast campus.
New safety measures will include enhanced parking lot lighting, an upgrade to the campus door-locking system and improved security cameras and panic alarms. Johnson said the renovations would also provide more places for students to gather to socialize and study.
“The LRC will become a hub for all sorts of learning activities, with an extensive computer lab, re-energized Academic Skills Center and a coffee bar,” he said.
Johnson said plans are also underway to expand the student union building significantly with new dining options, enhanced student spaces for organizations to meet and for recreational use.
He said the plan also includes completely refurbishing and equipping science labs with new cabinetry and upgraded safety equipment and updating classrooms with plenty of access to power supplies and new furniture.