Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) has offered classes on the Lakeshore, spread out in four locations, for more than 20 years. With programs in disparate locations and in small, leased available spaces in buildings through the area, serving students and maintaining fiscal responsibility was a challenge on top of restricted growth. The college purchased the former JCPenney in The Shops at Westshore Mall in the heart of Holland Township to become a consolidated GRCC Lakeshore Campus, committed to serving Lakeshore learners of all ages. One consolidated campus creates synergy and collaboration across programs that are physically co-located, and provides opportunities for operational efficiencies and partnerships with Grand Valley State University’s Meijer campus as well as other area colleges. The 52,000 square-foot campus facility gives GRCC flexibility to grow into the much-larger space and establishes a strong presence, truly embedding the college – and education – in a community.

The project required transforming a shuttered department store into a vibrant learning hub for students of all ages and making education more accessible to all residents in the Lakeshore community of Holland. One of the challenges presented to the GMB design team was to take the existing JCPenney anchor space in a mall building and create a new GRCC identity that would shed any association with the old retail presence. The vast interior space was not only converted into labs and classrooms, but the exterior of the building was completely transformed, establishing a modern, welcoming presence while saving as much of the existing building shell as possible to keep the project in budget. Additionally, the building will be LEED certified as part of GRCC’s sustainability goals.

The architectural vernacular of the building looks to emulate the curriculum it will house. The exterior brick was carved away to allow for natural daylight and industrial materials to be applied. The space plan is organized around the machine tool area to the north with perimeter classrooms ringing the exterior. Student support spaces and science labs act as islands within the floor plan, so that views from the main entrance focus on the machine tool lab. Enlarged corridors act as extensions of the classroom, allowing small groups to work or study before and after class while also opening into some of the classroom spaces for a larger lecture when needed. The facility has nine classrooms, four computer labs, and five unique labs for biology, chemistry, electronics, automation, welding and machine tooling, housing programs for students working toward an associate degree or a career-focused certificate. The $12 million project also has spaces for advising, counseling and other student support services, and a satellite library, as well as areas for use by community groups.

This allows us to better serve our students and industry partners, and gives people in the community a visible, centrally located place to connect with our college in a thriving area.

Dr. Bill Pink, President, Grand Rapids Community College