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First phase of $14M Ridgewater College's project ready for students

A crew works Thursday on the new entrance to Building A on the Ridgewater College campus in Willmar. The work is part of a major renovation project at the campus that will continue into next year. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Ridgewater College staff members are getting ready to move furniture and equipment into classrooms remodeled for its agriculture and veterinary technology programs.

The updated area will be ready when fall semester classes begin

The classrooms in Building C are the first parts of a $14 million improvement project to be finished. The rest of the project will continue into 2014.

The Legislature approved funding for the project in the 2012 bonding bill. A first, smaller phase of the project was funded and completed several years ago.

Other work includes gutting and remodeling the student services building, now called Building A, and demolishing a portion of another building.

The campus bookstore and all student service functions will be moved into the first floor of Building A next year. For now, those offices are housed in other areas of the campus.

"It's a one-stop shop for the students," said Liz VanDerBill, the college's marketing director.

The second floor of that building will be the site of a new kitchen and dining room area, as well as several classroom/conference rooms and a computer lab. A new central staircase to the second floor and a new main entrance are included in the project.

In all, the project will remodel nearly 80,000 square feet in buildings on the campus, said Dan Holtz, vice president of finance and operations. About 1,250 square feet will be added, and about 8,500 square feet will be demolished.

Holtz said classrooms were remodeled to make better use of space, and some nearby classrooms and storage areas were used to give the vet tech program more room. "We turned two rooms and a mess into three nice rooms," he said.

Faculty members who have seen the new agriculture and veterinary technology space are excited to move in, he said, and that could start in the next week.

"It will definitely be ready for students on the 26th," he said. "That's been the stress of the project." An open house is planned for September.

Areas that were not remodeled are getting fresh paint and new light fixtures, brightening the entire area. A new computer lab and agronomy labs have been developed for ag students, and classrooms feature much more storage space than they had before.

Lab areas have more sinks and more storage and counter space. Restrooms were remodeled and enlarged.

The remodeling was needed because the two programs are among the fastest-growing at the college and were dealing with facilities never designed to handle so many students.

"This is a more efficient use of space," Holtz said. "This turned out very nice."

Major remodeling sometimes yields surprises hidden in walls, but so far, there haven't been any major surprises, Holtz said. "We've run into some asbestos," he said, but most of it had been removed before Building A was gutted.

Once Building A is finished, Helland Hall, where administrative offices once were, will be demolished. Also scheduled for next summer are landscaping, reconfiguring parking and driving lanes and signs around campus.

All should be ready for the start of the fall semester in 2014, he said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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