Holmes Student Center Renovations move along with set timeline

Above is a rendering of the Huskies Den after the proposed renovations have been completed. The renovation would include a staircase to the Black Hawk Cafe and a sports grill. 

Above is a rendering of the Huskies Den after the proposed renovations have been completed. The renovation would include a staircase to the Black Hawk Cafe and a sports grill. 

By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — The Holmes Student Center is currently in the demolition phase of renovations, and officials plan to start reconstruction in January.

The Student Center will be adding a new lounge with natural lighting, modern updates to the Huskie Den with more entertainment, a new dining option and a relocated bookstore, according to the Holmes Student Center Renovations webpage.

Belinda Roller, Division of Administration and Finance architect, said workers began vacating the ground floor in May, and contractors came through June and July to do abatement work. She said renovations to the ground floor of the Holmes Student Center officially began Oct. 1 and are set to wrap up next fall.

Roller said when looking at the renovation process, there’s basically two separate portions.

“Beginning in June, we had contractors come through and do the abatement work, which is removing the health safety materials that are buried before they come through,” Roller said.

Roller said at the same time contractors were coming in, the construction team was getting contract documents ready to issue for bidding. She said the construction documents consisted of drawings and specifications for builders.

Roller said they received bids in July and August. She said they consisted of a lot of paperwork, and after it was completed, construction workers and officials had their first site meeting Oct. 1.

“We still plan to reopen next fall,” Roller said. “What people are hearing now is the demolishing phase and the noise of just tearing everything down.”

Jennifer Manning, acting director of the Holmes Student Center, said some people are distracted by the noise when in the Student Center.

“It’s not the best time to be around the Student Center due to all the loud noises and the beginning phases of construction getting started,” Manning said.

Manning is an alumni of NIU and attended from 1993-1999, 31 years after the Holmes Student Center was built.

“When I went to school here I had a bowling class, and it was so hard to find the bowling alley, so I think this new entrance will help students find the Huskie Den better,” Manning said. “It’s also a shortcut to the ground floor, which will be nicer in the winter.”

Roller said the main demolishing phase should wrap up sometime in January, and the reconstruction starts from there.

“Because it’s such a big project, we can’t do all the demolishing in one portion,” Roller said. “The excavation for the south side of the building, where they’re demolishing the wall, won’t start until next spring.”

The Student Center will also hold the relocation of Campus Activities Board, Student Association and Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development to the Holmes Student Center. The Center will also have a new south entrance, which will open directly to the ground floor and outdoor plaza, according to the Holmes Student Center Renovations webpage.

Roller said the center will also open new businesses to students on the ground floor, such as Starbucks which will be fully franchised.

Roller said they plan to open a new convenience store, a new dining option which is being called the Huskie Grill for now, the new Starbucks and another new business which is still being worked on.

“We plan to have a new convenience store, a new Starbucks, which will be a fully franchised operation, a new dining option which we are calling the Huskie Grill for now but is not official and another new business that’s still in the works,” Roller said.

Manning said she believes students will enjoy improvements and will find it hard to leave with the smell of the new grill and coffee.

“I’m hoping with these new changes coming to the Student Center it will become the hub again for students to hang out and host activities like it was when I was enrolled here,” Manning said.  

The Student Center was built in the 1960s and hasn’t seen any renovations as big as this one, according to the Holmes Student Center Renovations webpage.

Sophomore communications major Jeremiah Ray said he plans to visit the ground floor more once it opens and is looking forward to the new entertainment options the Huskie Den will bring. He  said he thinks updates will attract more students and locals.

“The Huskie Den in the [Student] Center wasn’t very appealing when it was open,” Ray said. “It was dark, dim and not even updated to be honest. I believe the changes will attract not only the students, but people in the surrounding community.”