Calvin College

A Place to Thrive Calvin’s Plan for Creating a Connected, Learning-Centered Campus

When architect William Fyfe unveiled his plan for Calvin’s Knollcrest campus in 1959, he imagined a semi-cloistered campus perfect for rigorous learning and scholarly engagement. His vision created a campus that made people feel comfortable and safe. A place where people could thrive as they study, live and learn.

Today, Calvin College presents a new campus master plan that imagines the kind of spaces students need to prepare for life and work in a global, interconnected world:

  • Spaces that foster collaborative, innovative learning
  • Spaces that facilitate the kind of connections that set students on the path to becoming Christ’s agents of renewal in the world
  • Spaces that welcome strangers and friends alike into this transformative community we call Calvin College
Campus Facts


The year Calvin's first master plan for its Knollcrest campus was completed.


The year Calvin College completed its transition to its current location in southeast Grand Rapids.


Acres on Calvin's campus.


Acres on campus that comprise the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens.

A Short History of Place

Calvin College was founded in 1876 as a theological seminary. It settled on a campus in 1917 at Franklin Street in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood. Space limitations spurred the purchase of the Knollcrest Campus in the 1950s. In 1959, the college developed a master plan aimed at taking care of students, supporting campus leadership and being a good neighbor to the community. The college completed its transition to the Knollcrest Campus in 1973.

Framing the Plan: Core Principles

To develop the final campus master plan, a rigorous planning process engaged Calvin faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends in six phases. Through this process, these values emerged as framing principles for each new building or development project:

  • 1. Learning-centered
    The design of campus should foster and cultivate the pursuit of academic discovery both inside and outside the classroom.
  • 2. Hospitable
    The design of the campus should model the virtues of hospitality and humility with a commitment to human scale, ease of access and navigation.
  • 3. Connected
    The design of campus should not only encourage social and professional interactions between faculty, staff and students, but create meaningful connections with the surrounding community.
  • 4. Stewardly
    The design, construction and maintenance of campus facilities should prioritize environmental responsibility and demonstrate financial stewardship.
  • 5. Coherent
    The natural, cultivated and built elements of campus should be complementary parts of an integrated, coherent and consistent whole in keeping with its inherited aesthetic.
  • 6. Purposeful
    Campus facilities and elements should have clear purpose yet remain adaptable to changing needs, providing usable space that is functional and flexible.

Strategies The View from 30,000 Feet

Before exploring campus plan specifics, it is helpful to understand the eight overarching strategies developed to guide future projects. See these ideas come to life in the maps below:

Immediate PrioritiesRenewing Campus

This plan for renewing Calvin’s campus is a 20-year vision intended to guide the development of buildings and grounds.

Project 1: Calvin Crossing (working title)

Before After

Our space needs summary reveals that one of the greatest needs across campus is for dining, assembly, exhibit and student center spaces such as lounge and activity areas. The proposed Calvin Crossing (working title) will be a campus crossroads strengthening the east-west connection across East Beltline by providing continuous flow between the DeVos Center, the Covenant Fine Arts Center and the Hekman Library. This creates an opportunity for the Calvin Crossing (working title) to become a hub of the Calvin student experience, integrating academics, faith and student life in an activity-filled atmosphere.

At 60,000 gross square feet, the new building will include a variety of active spaces that will draw students, faculty, staff and visitors together in this all-inclusive, active building.

Program elements include:

  • Inviting and versatile lounges for study, relaxation, recreation and events.
  • Food service (Johnny’s-type venue)
  • Dedicated student organization space
  • Student service offices
  • Career development hub
  • Large, flexible multipurpose meeting room
  • Smaller meeting rooms of various capacities
  • Information desk
  • Bookstore


Project 2: Comprehensive Classroom Renovations

Before renovations After renovations

Potential classroom configuration

Learning in 2015 is rapidly changing from a teacher-centric information delivery approach to student-centered collaborative learning enhanced by technology. Currently, very few of Calvin’s classrooms are configured well for this type of learning. Comprehensive renovations and furniture replacement will substantially improve teaching and promote a student-centered learning environment.


Project 3: Dining Commons Renovation

Existing dining commons

Existing dining commons

Dining is a key part of the student experience. Our space needs summary identified food service as the largest space deficit on campus. The existing Dining Commons has aging equipment and is overcrowded and outdated. The master plan recommends improvements to the building in conjunction with the proposed Calvin Crossing (working title) building. In fall 2016, upper ground-level dining and serving areas will be renovated. Renovations to the building entries, loading dock, building systems, mezzanine and lower level will start after the Calvin Crossing (working title) is completed. Once these renovations are finished, the Commons Annex will be razed, and the commons lawn will be expanded.


10-Year Priorities Renewing Campus

Major Renovations and Department Realignments

This part of the plan calls for the renovation of existing classrooms, faculty offices and academic-support spaces combined with the introduction of new academic spaces at DeVos Communications Center.

Addtional transformative projects to be realized within the next 10 years based on donor support and college priorities.


20-Year Priorities Renewing Campus

Proposed Knollcrest East

  • Residence Hall Projects
    To improve the sense of community in residence halls, student lounges will be added on each floor. Existing basement lounges will be improved, and communal kitchens and dining areas will be added to create building-wide gathering spaces. The plan also calls for the construction of a new 150- to 180-bed residence hall east of East Beltline.


  • Knollcrest East Opportunity
    Long-term redevelopment plans include a multi-use village that would add more residence space and allow Calvin to partner with private developers and the adjacent seminary. A three-phase approach would allow Calvin to preserve housing and parking capacity during the building project.



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