Mount Wachusett Bemis Student Center

Gardner, MA

Client

Mount Wachusett Community College

Program

Expansion/retrofit of existing 4,000 SF outdoor patio to create new student lounge space and swing space for future phased renovations.

Client Challenge

The Haley Academic Center, built in the 1970s, no longer met the needs of MWCC’s commuter students. With almost no dedicated student lounge/study spaces, one small inefficient dining wing and multiple ADA and building maintenance issues, MWCC was looking for a way to stretch their budget to give students space to study and re-charge between classes while the College gathered funding for further phased renovations.

Solution

PCA reviewed a study commissioned by MWCC in 2015 and found ways to simplify the proposed phasing to deliver a quicker, higher-level impact on student life. The team saw potential to solve several problems at the same time by moving the proposed last Phase 6 to Phase 1.

Enclosing an underutilized open-air patio space adjacent to the student life offices creates a lounge for 60+ students that can also serve as swing space for students during any future renovation of the dining wing. Essentially one new wall and a roof created an entirely new space – referred to now by MWCC as the “living room” on campus. The new space also improved circulation throughout the building by providing better visibility and connections between the bookstore library, dining and student life offices.

The interior design creates zones that encapsulate various student needs including enclosed booth areas for quiet study, community tables for group work, whiteboards for collaboration, dining and lounge areas for relaxing, and TV and game areas.

The retrofit project was completed on a tight budget in one year from start of design to construction completion, making a large impact for less capital outlay. For less than $3 M, the school added 4,000 SF of dedicated student space for a population that truly needs a home away from home. As a commuter school, this project gives students a place to stay on campus and engage as a community, strengthening their commitment to their school and their futures.