BY LEANN DILBECK –
As The Pulse first reported last week, RMCC is poised to break ground April 17, 2013 on their largest capital improvement/construction project since its inception. The details of the new construction phase of the project, the new Ouachita Center, were unveiled last week. A continuation of that story this week includes the details of the renovation and expansion of the library and bookstore departments of the college to create a “Learning Commons” environment. The total project will cost an estimated $5.2 million.
RMCC Chief Financial Officer Morris Boydstun explained that the library hasn’t seen a renovation or update since the mid-1990’s. The renovation is just under 6,000 s.f. and the expansion will be an approximate 1,500 s.f. of additional space that will incorporate the library with the tutoring services, student center, and bookstore to create a Learning Commons. “One of our goals here is always to prepare students for the next phase of their education,” said RMCC President Phillip Wilson. He said the combination creates a lot of “synergy by putting our academics together with the tutoring inside the library.”
Wilson said the space will have a very soft and inviting feel for both the students and the community. The new area will also afford students a working area in which to meet for group projects as required with today’s academia and to accommodate the student life organizations.
A new front entrance will better showcase the bookstore and as Boydstun explained, “create a more retail environment. We know that students only buy books four to five weeks out of the year but the rest of the time, they need other supplies like notebooks, pens, pencils, flash drives, etc., and so the new space is designed to be more inviting and accommodating to students.”
Another feature of the new space will be the addition of a food service that will be a “grab and go similar to what you see at an airport plus we’re going to bring back our own version of a grill.” Wilson explained that health food didn’t prove to be very popular with the student population so they plan to compromise and also offer such things as wraps and prepared salads.
The student center will offer ample soft seating, big screen TVs, bulletin boards and along with the return of the food service, the administration hopes it will build more of a “collegiate feel” and give students more of a reason to stay on campus.
Architect Joe Rogers of SAIC, also a former Mena High School graduate, designed both phases of the project.
Nabholz Construction Services has been secured as the construction management firm for the project but Wilson said all phases of the project will be bid out so as to give local contractors an opportunity.
Wilson emphasized, “We’re not just building to be building. These improvements address needs of the institution. We are not mortgaging our future or putting the improvements onto the backs of our students. We are using existing millage and building fees and taking advantage of historically low interest rates on existing bond money.”
Construction for this phase of the project is slated to begin immediately following RMCC’s graduation and be completed by mid-August when students return for the Fall semester. The ground breaking will be held April 17 at 5:30 p.m. followed by the RMCC Board of Trustee’s regular meeting.