After a $19 million renovation that took more than a year to complete, Westchester Community College’s students and faculty can enjoy the completely revamped student center at the school’s main campus in Valhalla.
The student center reopened Feb. 6, and although the renovation process was long, the outcome is something the school celebrates. Walking up to the stone-covered walls of the building, Kevin Garvey, facilities director for Westchester Community College (WCC), noted the new student center maintained the architectural integrity of the campus in its decade-long reconstruction.
In the late 1990s, WCC officials determined it was time to plot out the renovation process, said Garvey. They worked their way from building to building, including renovating the library and expanding the Ossining and Peekskill campuses. Approximately 18 months ago, they started on the three-phase student center project.
“The cafeteria was open during the entire construction phasing,” noted Garvey. Keeping facilities open “does prolong the whole process … but it felt better,” he said. The access to the cafeteria was appreciated by the students, who also understood the need for a renovation, Garvey explained, as the college’s student center had not been renovated in decades. The school had done little more than replace air conditioning units or offer Band-Aid fixes to long-standing problems.
The complete redesign of the center added an additional 9,000 square feet, bringing the total amount of space to roughly 57,000 square feet.
The expansion added “more student life space,” said Garvey during a walkthrough of the newly opened center. “The majority of the new space is dedicated to the students. There’s a push-out (extension) at the front of the building with new windows and inside there’s four lounge spaces for students to lounge.”
The center can now accommodate between 400 and 500 students and has been updated to include Wi-Fi. Garvey added the center was “totally reconfigured to be more inviting and less institutional, with less walls to create an open setting.” The state-of-the-art cafeteria and lounge area near the center’s entrance sits just across from the Crème Café, a grab-and-go suited for coffee and snacks.
Around the corner from the cafeteria is the culinary arts kitchen area, with two fully redesigned and updated cooking facilities and a separate computer lab dedicated to the culinary program. “Students cater meals for the public and for the campus community for a nominal fee. It’s all restaurant-quality meals,” said Garvey.
Upstairs, another lounge sits just outside of a meditation room. The quiet room shares the floor with a personnel office and a social work and counseling office. In the basement is a security command center as well as the student-run newspaper. The college radio station just moved in last week. The center also has a fully functioning infirmary, which replaces a nurse’s office that Garvey said was a third of the infirmary’s size.
The new building is environmentally friendly with sustainable materials and high-efficiency units. The glass windows, which offer more natural light, are considered kind to the environment, Garvey said. He added the site has an HVAC system with building materials that have fewer volatile organic components. “Also, there’s no more carpeting left in here as part of the environmentally conscious theme,” he said.
The renovations continue for WCC as the health science building is now in the design phase. For now, students are able to enjoy their new center, which is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.