Improvement projects under way

Renovations to the Reddie Bookstore are among the several projects under way or planned on the Henderson campus.

Renovations to the Reddie Bookstore are among the several projects under way or planned on the Henderson campus.

A number of major improvement projects are under way on the Henderson State University campus ranging from facility upgrades to landscaping enhancements.

Renovations have begun inside the Garrison Student Activities Center. The improvements will bring two new popular restaurants to the campus, along with a fresh new look for the Reddie Bookstore. The hallways on both levels of the two-story facility will be modernized with new flooring and paint, and the Day Gym will be transformed into a modern conference center.

The south end of the Garrison Center is being prepared to accommodate a new full-service Chik-Fil-A and Starbucks. A “Grillworks” will offer other fast food options such as burgers and Philly sandwiches. Starbucks and Grillworks are scheduled to be open by Aug. 5. Chick-Fil-A will open on Sept. 20.

In all, 3,200 square feet is being renovated for the restaurants, said Bobby Jones, vice president for finance and administration. The interiors will follow a master color scheme to match other areas of the Garrison Center.

The Reddie Bookstore is undergoing a complete interior makeover and will feature an open ceiling and a new floor plan. Text books will be kept in a separate room which opens up additional space on the sales floor to accommodate health and beauty supplies, grocery items and a larger selection of clothing. An electronics section offering cell phone and other electronics repairs is planned.

The paint scheme will follow the Garrison Center master plan. The bookstore project is expected to be completed by Aug. 1.

Garrison Center entry areas, corridors and seating areas will all see new paint to match the master scheme, and some remodeling will take place.

The conversion of the Day Gym to a large conference center will be the major component of the renovation project. It will provide significantly more space than the current banquet room on the second floor. Plans call for a complete makeover of the gym.

The room that once housed the faculty/staff exercise room will be converted to the Student Leadership Center and will house the offices of associate dean of students and coordinator of Greek Life/Multicultural and Diversity Activities. Cubicles will also be available for student organizations.

New and improved lighting and sound for the lecture hall is also in the works.

While work has already started on the new restaurants and the bookstore, the other Garrison Center improvements are expected to begin late this year after general improvement funds are received from the state, according to Jones.

“The biggest part of the project will be the renovation of the Day Gym,” Jones said. He doesn’t anticipate any down time for students using the Garrison Center, but there could be some areas closed off at various times.

Originally constructed in 1958 and named the Jonathan H. Lookadoo Student Union, the facility was renovated and combined with the Day Armory in the early 1990s and renamed the Garrison Activity and Conference Center.

Landscaping projects
Changes on campus are also occurring outdoors as a major landscaping effort gets under way. The most noticeable project will include the South Lawn. Three trees which have been identified as dead or dying will be cut down, according to Jones. Some areas will be tilled and fertilized and an irrigation system will be expanded across the South Lawn.

Jones said areas without grass will receive sod, and mulch will be poured at tree bases and spread along the iron fence adjacent to Henderson Street.

After consulting with arborists, it was decided to raise the tree canopy on the South Lawn and promenade/mall area and increase lighting. The same thing will occur in the ravine area between the Garrison Center and the new dining facility. “This will open up and beautify our campus,” Jones said.

This step of the landscaping is scheduled to be completed by fall. The next phase will focus on the Quad area and behind the Russell Fine Arts Center.

We want to the keep the landscaping low maintenance and be smarter about what we do,” Jones said. “Sometimes less is better.”

Two more dying trees will be cut – one at the Barkman House, and another in front of Evans Hall.

“All of this is to enhance the campus, providing an atmosphere for the students that gives them the best environment so their learning experience is second to none,” Jones said.

Proctor Hall renovation
Henderson recently received a grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council to fund repairs to Proctor Hall which currently houses Henderson’s Family and Consumer Sciences Department. The grant will cover exterior repairs and the interior restoration of the reception lobby.

The repairs include new windows and roof, along with minor masonry and carpentry work. Inside, the reception lobby finishes will be restored, as will the original doors and transoms. Repairs to water-damaged interior surfaces are also planned.

Footbridge will be widened
Following the completion of the new dining facility, it became apparent that the foot bridge crossing the ravine needed to be widened. Henderson looked at building a new bridge, but it was considered cost-prohibitive.

It was decided to widen the Amy Jean Greene Bridge by removing the existing rails and placing heavy-duty cables and railing on the outside of the bridge. Jones said this process should add about a foot to the width. “That will give us the room we need,” he said. “And it will take on a new look.”

Jones said the project should start “any day” and be completed by fall. The bridge will not be completely closed during construction, Jones said, but it will be shut down a few hours at a time. He added that it will still be named the Amy Jean Greene Bridge.

Residence hall improvements
The carpet in all rooms of the Smith residence hall is being replaced with new vinyl wood-plank flooring tiles, according to Dan Mabery, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life. He said the chilled water pipes on the seventh and eighth floors are also being replaced which will greatly improve the flow of air conditioning on those levels.

A new sidewalk and steps have been constructed on the west end of West Hall, and more Wi-Fi points will be installed in all of the residence halls to improve the wireless internet coverage and strength.

All projects aim to enhance campus life for Henderson’s students. “We are doing all of this for the students,” Jones said. “We don’t want Henderson to be just good, we want to be great.”