KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University has selected a Michigan firm with a strong background in historic preservation to transform historic East Hall into a new alumni center.
TowerPinkster, a 60-year-old firm with a longtime track record in historic preservation projects, will develop the plans to transform WMU's East Hall birthplace into a home for the University's alumni and development offices and a facility that can be the focus of campus and community events and a showplace to highlight the institution's history.
Work on the project will begin immediately, led by the firm principal Bjorn Green. He and his team will work with WMU campus planners to develop a schedule and launch the design process. The architectural team also will tap the historic preservation expertise of Gene Hopkins from Hopkins Burns Design Studio of Ann Arbor, Mich. He brings more than 32 years of experience to the effort, including overseeing projects involving such National Historic Landmarks as the Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac, the Michigan State Capitol and Fort Wayne. East Hall gained National Historic Landmark status in 1978.
"We're extraordinarily pleased that TowerPinkster will be working with us," says David Dakin, director of planning in WMU's Facilities Management Department. "Bjorn Green knows this building inside and out, so he'll be able to hit the ground running. His firm is part of the fabric of this community, and its record in the historic preservation arena is first rate."
TowerPinkster has a long association with WMU, most recently completing such projects as the renovation of the Lee Honors College and the Office for Sustainability. Earlier major projects include the Gilmore Theatre Complex and the College of Aviation facilities in Battle Creek, Mich.
TowerPinkster's recent historic preservation successes include the Federal Building in Grand Rapids that was recently renovated for Ferris State University's Kendall College of Art and Design. That effort won the 2013 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation. The Accident Fund Insurance Company corporate headquarters in Lansing, Mich., is another of the company's adaptive reuse success stories. That project involved transforming a 1930s-era power plant into an office building with LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—gold-level certification. Green was the project lead on that effort.
"As a local firm, we understand the rich history of Western Michigan University and the story of its founding," Green says. "This unique project will celebrate the historic significance and grandeur of East Hall and what it symbolizes for both the Kalamazoo and WMU communities. We're honored to be a part of this effort."
TowerPinkster has offices in both Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Its 65 employees create award-winning design solutions for entities in education, health care, government and the commercial world. In addition to WMU, its higher education clients have included Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Grand Valley State University, Albion College and Ferris State University.
About East Hall
The core of East Hall that will be renovated as part of the $15 million project has about 34,000 square feet of space. It is WMU's original building and was completed in 1905. East Hall includes the columned portico facing the community, a lighted cupola and the University’s original administrative and instructional spaces.
The site is at the top of Prospect Hill overlooking Kalamazoo’s downtown area. Building at the location began in 1904, shortly after the University was founded as Western State Normal School. The core of East Hall and the 20 acres at the top of the hill were donated to the new school by the Kalamazoo community.