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Monday, 20 August 2012 09:54

‘Town-gown’ relationship key to Hope’s expansion

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‘Town-gown’ relationship key to Hope’s expansion Courtesy renderings
HOLLAND — The physical presence of Hope College is about to change thanks to a healthy fundraising campaign and a shared vision with the city of Holland.

Last October, Hope College embarked on the largest fundraising campaign in its history, A Greater Hope, which set a goal of raising $175 million to go toward new building projects and the college’s endowment. In June of this year, the college announced it had surpassed the $150 million mark for donations and pledges, including $54.3 million in funds for capital projects planned to begin in the next few years.

Campaign goals for new facilities total $72 million, which includes construction costs as well as a maintenance endowment. Other campaign goals include an $80 million endowment for research, scholarships and campus life and $23 million in undesignated funds.

The college expects to complete the campaign by June 30, 2013.

The facilities arm of the campaign will fund the construction of several new buildings and facilities on campus including a new music building, student union, art museum, engineering addition and improvements to outdoor athletic fields.

According to James Bultman, president of Hope College since July 1999, none of these projects would be possible without the cooperation of Holland’s city government and its citizens. He ought to know: Since taking office, Bultman has led expansion projects that have doubled the physical size of the college, according to college officials.

“There has been a very cooperative spirit with the city. We could not have done it without the city,” said Bultman. “The town-gown relationship we have is rather enviable for other college towns and colleges.”

Tom Renner, the college’s vice president for community relations, sees the relationship between the campus and community in much the same way.

“We’re very fortunate to have city leaders who recognize the value of having a college like Hope in the middle of the city,” said Renner.

This good fortune is crucial to Hope’s expansion, especially in the midst of a massive capital fundraising campaign.

While many colleges experience pushback from the community while expanding facilities and programs, according to Holland’s assistant city manager, Greg Robinson, there is no such friction between Hope and Holland.

“We’ve had a longstanding positive relationship with Hope College,” said Robinson. “In the last 10 to 12 years, I have not seen any disagreement with Hope from the community.”

The relationship is based on maintaining an open dialogue between the college and city, an important asset when often city and college events, such as graduation and the Tulip Time Festival, frequently threaten to overlap.

“We maintain a working relationship so that the community and college understand (both) what’s going on and the plans for the future, and we have active discussions so everyone is on board,” said Robinson.

Holland has good reason to be cooperative. According to an August 2011 study by EconIMPACT, the college contributed $213 million to the economy of the greater Holland area in 2010. Through its expansion and renovation projects, Hope has pumped $92 million directly into the community, and the city budget receives a net 1.1 percent benefit from the college.

However, the benefits are not only financial. According to Robinson, the community also engages heavily in the college programming.

“When you go to a Hope College event, you see all sorts of community members, not just students and faculty,” he said.

Construction on the facilities expansion projects began in 2012. First to be completed was the VandePoel-Heeringa tennis courts, an addition to the tennis complex at the Ekdal J. Buys athletic fields. The more than $2.1 million outdoor 12-court facility is geared toward not only serving Hope students and athletes, but it is also available for tennis clinics and programs as well as general use by community members. Private donors largely funded the project, although the college did receive a grant from the United States Tennis Association.

Other developments funded through the athletic improvement fund included renovations to the Holland municipal stadium, which will soon be owned by the college, Renner said.

Next, the college broke ground on badly needed student housing. Recently, Hope has been experiencing a boom in enrollment. Its largest freshman class to date, 848 students, enrolled in the fall of 2011, and total student enrollment in the 2011-2012 academic year was 3,249.

Projected freshman enrollment in the 2012-2013 academic year is over 900 students.

The Tom and Ryan Cook Village will house 60 students in series of four townhouse-style apartments arranged in a “U” shape on a plot of land bordered by 11th and 12th streets near the existing DeVos Fieldhouse. Grand Rapids-based Design Plus Inc. designed the apartments, and Holland-based Lakewood Construction Inc. serves as construction manager. The townhouses will be completed before the start of the 2013 fall semester.

This expansion into residential neighborhoods by the college barely caused a stir, according to Robinson.

“At the (city planning) meeting I think only one person showed up to object to the college expanding,” said Robinson.

The other expansion plan currently in the works is an addition onto the existing VanderWerf Hall, which houses the college’s physics, math, computer science and engineering departments. The $3.75 million addition — funded in part by Haworth Inc., the Haworth family and the Cook Foundation — will provide additional space for the college’s growing engineering department. It also is slated to open in the fall of 2013.

According to Bultman, the college’s president, the addition can’t come online soon enough.

“In either September or October, we’re going to embark on the new engineering wing. Engineering is our most burgeoning department,” said Bultman. “What we need is a creative design space for engineering students.

The new wing will deliver that space, he said. It will feature 9,000 square feet of space to be used for student design projects as well as company-sponsored projects. Also, the wing will allow Hope to double the size of its computer-aided design lab.

When the current projects are completed this year, Bultman hopes to start the next phase of projects as his tenure as president winds down and the A Greater Hope campaign is completed. According to Bultman, first will be the new concert hall and music building, then to follow will be the Kruizenga Art Museum and a student union that will bear his and his wife’s names: the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center.

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