Over the last couple of years Northwestern’s campus has been home to many exciting changes. Construction, demolition and remodeling have all helped students and Orange City residents alike see a rapid evolution of the campus landscape.
Some of the most recent changes have been the construction of the DeWitt Learning Commons and the remodeling of the Ramaker Center. These changes have been hard to miss for those on campus, but there has been another lesser-known development for NW just this year, in the form of a new acquisition.
Orange City decided to vacate a section of Arizona Avenue Southwest in early December, and deeded it to the school. This portion of the street is located in the northwest corner of campus and consists of the half block situated between the North Suites residence hall and Kepp Hall.
Duane Feekes, City Administrator in Orange City, provided some history on the ownership of the street.
“When the college wanted to build Stegenga Hall about 20 years ago, we closed Arizona Avenue SW from Seventh Street to Highway 10,” Feekes said.
Most of the street was removed, but a small section was left to provide access for two residential properties now known as the Wiersma Cottage and Jasper House.
The college purchased the Wiersma Cottage in 2002 to house the college’s nursing department, and acquired the Jasper House in January of 2012.
Once NW owned the property on both sides of the street, the city decided to deed the street to the college.
“There was really no sense for us to keep it, because it’s really enveloped by the campus,” Feekes said.
Once the city began to consider vacating this block, it wasn’t a very complicated process but it did have a few different steps.
“First, the council considers vacating,” Feekes said. “If they decide to do it, they have to schedule a public hearing, put a public notice in the paper, then allow the public to come in and comment. Once the hearing is closed, they adopt a resolution to go through with it or not.”
After the city council voted and no town residents gave comments, the college became the official owners of the street.
Although the school is excited about the possibilities this purchase makes possible, it stated students should not expect any immediate changes.
“The biggest advantage for us is that it allows us to be more flexible,” said Doug Beukelman, the Vice President for Financial Affairs.
Some students may see the different building projects occurring on campus as slightly spontaneous, but the school is not simply erecting new buildings on a whim. Past, present and future changes originate from the school’s master plan.
“We did our Master Planning with the whole community. Anybody who wanted to could come in and write out what they would like to see, what was missing from campus and what was great about campus,” Beukelman said.
This plan has been the driving force behind much of the recent growth on campus.
The Learning Commons, the upcoming Juffer Athletic Fieldhouse and even talk of a future center for science classrooms and laboratories were all included in the master planning exercise. The space currently occupied by the half block of Arizona Avenue. SW and Kepp Hall also has a role in the master plan.
“The vision was that there would be another suites type building located across the street,” Beukelman said. “By vacating the street, we are not restricted on where we could place it. This allows us to look at one that would possibly be physically connected to North Suites, and together they would form a residence hall similar in size to the other dorm buildings.”
Nothing is expected to happen immediately. Beukelman predicts that we’re still a couple years away from construction.
While this is potentially a very long range project, the school also has done some looking into what a womens’ suites-style residence hall would look like.
“We formed a committee to look at a potential womens’ suite style housing,” Beukelman said. “It’s very preliminary; we’ve only had one meeting. At some point during that process, we would be getting student involvement. Probably talking to the men that live in North, asking them what they like or what they would change.”
Kendall Stanislav, who has been the Resident Director at the North since its construction, is one of the members of this preliminary committee.
“I think that although there were some doubts, the suites have been an effective form of student housing, and the men who have lived here have had great experiences,” Stanislav said. “I think the option of being able to offer a similar type of housing for women on campus is incredibly exciting.”