July 29, 2022 | Matt Kucinski

A Calvin university dormitory building

Adding residence hall “beacons.” Opening up ample green space. Creating a diversified portfolio of on-campus housing options.

These are a few exciting outcomes resulting from a Residential Master Planning process that unfolded at Calvin University over the past six months. A team of Calvin community members, working alongside partners from GMB Architecture + Engineering, reviewed data and input from many stakeholders, including information from student surveys, focus groups with students and employees, a comprehensive facilities condition assessment, site visits to other higher education institutions, and past strategic and master plans.

“We believe that a vibrant residential environment is an essential component of the university learning experience,” said Sarah Visser, vice president for student life and co-chair of the Residential Master Plan committee. “This residential master plan builds on the strengths of our current on-campus student housing portfolio and helps identify key opportunities for innovation and investment in residential spaces that will amplify and expand the transformational learning experiences that Calvin is known for.“

The Residential Master Plan provides a roadmap toward updating all residence halls, including adding connecting lounges on each residential floor, increased accessibility through elevators, open-air staircases connecting lobbies and residence hall basements, and updated kitchen and community spaces. One popular idea in the plan is the addition of central “beacon” lounge/study spaces stacked above each residence hall lobby, which would provide more natural light to residence hall floors and showcase the vibrancy of residential life to those passing by.   

A redesign of some apartment housing on the east side of the Beltline allows for the introduction of other types of room configurations intended to appeal to upper-class junior and senior students. The plan also includes the recommended addition of a proposed multi-story new residential building with different room configuration options (e.g., single rooms, multi-room suites, etc.) to be built near the School of Business on the corner of Burton and the East Beltline.   

The Residential Master Plan also envisions how adding a new Commons Union and consolidated dining hall adjacent to Hekman Library would open up opportunities to create additional green space in the heart of the residential campus. The plan includes a new north campus green space where Knollcrest Dining Hall currently stands. This new green space will foster additional opportunities for student connection and community-building, including features like a hammock park and outdoor firepits.    

“Our community is a strength, and we want all students to feel a sense of belonging and connection from the time they step onto campus,” said Lauren Jensen, vice president for enrollment strategy. “By creating more community gathering spaces inside and adjacent to residence halls, we create more opportunities for connection amongst our students.”

The aspirations for the plan are that it will be coherent and contemporary, promote access and accessibility, enhance the quality and variety of unit type offerings, foster student gathering, and that on-campus housing spaces will become a compelling first choice for upper division students.

“When students live and learn together, they form deep relationships,” said Visser. “We hear from graduates all the time that they remain close friends with their roommates, suitemates, and floormates long after they have moved on from Calvin’s campus. We are excited to continue this legacy by creating more opportunities and spaces where meaningful connections and transformative learning take place.”

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