MOLINE — Two years and almost $18 million later, Black Hawk College has a building that looks brand new.
On Thursday morning, around 100 students, faculty, administrators and community stakeholders gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new addition to and renovations of Building 1, at Black Hawk’s Moline campus.
During his speech in Building 1’s new courtyard, Tim Wynes, college president, said that the project dispels the stereotype that community colleges are just cheap rungs on the ladder to better places.
“What this addition says, what this renovation says, is that we’re competitive with any college,” Wynes said. “We have a learning studio that rivals any in the Quad-Cities.”
Wynes compared the construction of new science facilities at Augustana College to the new Building 1 at Black Hawk, which he called “just as good, just as flexible, and just as great learning environments as what Augie has to offer.”
Construction on Building 1 — which Black Hawk personnel called one of the most heavily trafficked spots on campus — began in March 2017. Changes include a massive new two-story wing, designed in a modern style, with 20,000 square-feet and 8 new classrooms, said Steve Frommelt, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer of the BHC Board.
The renovations to the building’s pre-existing three-floors, totaling 68,000 square-feet, refurbished 29 offices, 23 classrooms, a new HVAC system, LED lighting and a fire suppression system, among other changes.
The jewel of the project might be the new 5,000 square-foot courtyard between the original building and the new wing. Wynes said that students and faculty are encouraged to use the space for socializing and learning.
The majority of the $17.8 million project was funded publicly, through tax levies that include bonds, Frommelt said. The existing tax levies did not have to be raised to fund the project, saving taxpayers money, according to Fritz Larsen, chair of the BHC Board.
“Today marks the culmination of an idea that began in 1987, an idea about enhancing the learning experience and integrating an ergonomically friendly environment with new technology,” Larsen said in a speech.
“In an ever-increasing competitive education market, Black Hawk College stands committed to providing the best value proposition in higher education," Larsen added.
Bre Bahan, a member of the campus Student Government Association, is a current student who was selected to hold the yellow ribbon during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. In an interview, she said that the new Building 1 will help attract new students to campus, as well as improve overall morale.
“It feels more welcoming now,” she said. “It shows we’re keeping up with the times. As President Wynes said, we’re just as good as Augie. Students can start here and succeed anywhere.”
The project was “complex” due to timing and weather, said Jim Russell, founder of Russell Construction. Because of the college’s normal schedule, in which campus is quiet during the summer and parts of the winter, construction was most feasible during breaks so as to minimize disruption. However, the extreme winter and spring compounded issues.
Work involved about 200 tradesmen representing 15 crafts, said Jerry Lack, a Black Hawk alum and executive director at Tri-City Building & Construction Trades Council.
Building 1 contains classrooms and a campus library as well as offices for career services, financial aid, advising and human resources, among others. It’s one of a half dozen main buildings on the Quad-Cities campus.
Among some 100 attendees at Thursday morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony were state Representative Tony McCombie, Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri, United Township High School Superintendent Jay Morrow and representatives from the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the things I would suggest down the line is that we find a sexier name than ‘Building 1,’ ” Wynes joked in his speech, “but that’s another conversation.”