First of community input sessions for East Hall renovation set

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KALAMAZOO—Two public sessions, planned to provide members of the campus and extended communities the opportunity to be part of the design process for the new Western Michigan University Alumni Center, are set for Tuesday, Oct. 1.

The sessions will focus on the design process that will turn WMU's East Hall, birthplace of the University, into an alumni center designed to serve as a part of daily life at the University as well as a showcase for WMU's history. The sessions are solely to focus on obtaining public input about the features that will make the new facility a resource for both the campus and community.

The sessions are planned for 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., in the Little Theatre on WMU's East Campus at the corner of Oakland Drive and Oliver Lane. Parking is available in a lot adjacent to the Little Theatre and across Oakland Drive and adjacent to Walwood Hall in WMU Parking Lot No. 1.

Photo of preliminary design concept for East Campus.

Preliminary design concept, created by TowerPinkster

The two sessions are the first in a series of such meetings that will take place during different stages of the design process. The Oct. 1 sessions are set for the beginning of the design process. Additional sessions will be scheduled midway through the process, likely in December, and at the end of the process, as the final plans are ready for presentation in late February or early March. Actual renovation of East Hall is expected to begin in spring 2014.

The sessions will feature design professionals from TowerPinkster, a Kalamazoo firm selected earlier this year, and will include an overview of the project that will explore the range of features other schools use in successful alumni centers.

Additional topics to be covered

  • Building and design parameters to retain East Hall's historic identity
  • Core design elements that will be conserved—the columned portico, cupola and central stairway
  • Different approaches to determining entry points and flow from parking and pedestrian areas into the building
  • The necessity of accommodating for modern building utility, accessibility and service features
  • Possible garden, plaza and green space configurations for the hilltop that impact the Alumni Center's flexibility and range of uses
  • Space needs for alumni and development officials who will have offices in the center
Photo of .

East Hall

East Hall

Completed in 1905, East Hall was a gift from the Kalamazoo community and built at the top of Prospect Hill, which overlooks downtown Kalamazoo. Although wings were added to the building in later years, the focus for the renovation will be on the original building—the 34,000-square-foot core that is visually notable for its cupola and columned portico visible from much of the city.

The decision to renovate East Hall was announced in late 2012. Site work began in August. 

Most of East Hall has been unused in recent years. A portion of the building has been home to the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections—the historical records for 12 southwest Michigan counties. Those materials are being moved to the new Zhang Legacy Collections Center, a state-of-the-art historic conservation facility that WMU has just built near the corner of Oakland Drive and Howard Street. That facility will formally open during the latter half of October.