Calvin Expands East Campus

June 5, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Calvin College’s $25 million expansion of its East Campus, scheduled to begin in May, will significantly upgrade the school’s technology.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation made two of the largest gifts in Calvin’s history, $10 million each, to create the new DeVos Communication Center and the Prince Conference Center.

Site preparation has begun for expansion of the East Campus, the area east of the East Beltline.

Officials expect the work to be completed in August 2002. The East Campus then will house the two new centers and also act as one anchor for the $3.2 million, 380-foot pedestrian overpass that will span the East Beltline and join the two campuses.

“Crossing the Beltline is no easy task. So, what we are building is an overpass that goes across the Beltline to provide an ease of access because it will be basically the most direct route between the library and these two facilities. The overpass lies right in that line so that should make it easy for folks to get back and forth,” said Henry DeVries, vice president.

The new structures will be the first academic buildings on the east side of the Beltline, which currently houses only the Knollcrest East housing complex.

Currently, anywhere from six to 10 workers are involved in what DeVries called “general grooming.” Three excavating companies — Kentwood Excavating, Velting Contractors and Nagel Construction — are clearing land, moving topsoil, razing parking lots and bringing in sand, readying the site for the buildings and overpass. Calvin hopes to select a general contractor for the project in May and begin the building construction at that point.

Each of the two new buildings has a lot to offer to both Calvin’s campus and the Grand Rapids community.

The DeVos Communication Center will house classrooms and office space for the communication arts and sciences department, as well as the political science department and the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics. It also will contain a TV studio, a radio station, a computer lab and a 150-seat theater, complete with surround sound.

DeVries said the communication arts and sciences students now are spread throughout the campus, and this is an effort to centralize them on campus. “They are housed in every academic building except the field house; they are dispersed throughout the campus and their chair teases that he wants to get some students in the field house before they move just so he can say he has someone in every building,” said DeVries.

“That is one of the major motivations for us, to give the entire department a place where they can all work and be together and interact.”

The Prince Conference Center will comprise two buildings connected by an atrium. One building will hold meeting space, including a room with seating for up to 400 people and several others for 80 to 100 people, and smaller rooms for groups from 20 to 50.

The other building will be a lodging facility with 60 air-conditioned rooms for guests. Much of the conference center will incorporate Calvin’s 100-acre ecosystem preserve with views of the woods, ponds and trails.

“The DeVos and Prince families are long-time supporters of Christian education,” said Calvin College president Gaylen Byker at the time of the gift in July 1998. “Their support of these two new ventures means a great deal to all of us at Calvin. We are very grateful.”

Elsa Prince is a 1954 Calvin graduate. Richard DeVos is a 1947 Calvin alum and winner of the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award; his wife Helen is also a 1947 graduate.

The official groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., May 1.

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