By Tayla Courage
Volunteer State Community College’s $4.6 million plan to renovate the J. Howard Warf Building on campus are expected to begin this summer.
The proposed renovations will include the addition of student enclaves, two new laboratories, and a 6,000-square-foot mechatronics wing. The building will also receive cosmetic changes and several upgrades in technology.
Dr. Thomas A. Ekman, dean of the math and science division, described mechatronics as “automated manufacturing.” This degree program is in high demand at Vol State according to the enrollment numbers from last semester.
“Let’s just say we had about 30 students enrolled, which far exceeded our initial expectation. We were kind of hoping for 18, and we ended up with about 30,” said Ekman.
“The state awarded a $1.5 million Drive to 55 Capacity Fund Grant for the Mechatronics building addition. Another grant provided more than $800,000 for training and equipment,” according to a news release from Eric Melcher, coordinator of public relations and marketing.
The Warf renovation is expected to be a multi-year project, and currently there is no set completion date, according to Melcher.
Classes currently taking place in the Warf building may be forced to relocate during the renovation. Ekman explained the loose plan in place in the event that relocation is necessary.
“We’re hoping to do renovations on half of the class laboratories, keep the other labs open, then once the renovation is complete in that half of the labs, then we basically switch,” said Ekman.
He went on to say that it is possible for the entire building to be shut down during the renovation process, in which there would be potential for more night and Friday classes to be offered.
Erin Bloom, instructor of biology, expressed her appreciation for the historical aspect of Warf as one of Vol State’s original buildings but recognized the need for improvement of the building’s labs.
“What we would really love to see is more students involved in the classes but also outside of the classes with undergraduate research, and we really don’t have a great space for that right now,” said Bloom.
A meeting with Jeff Holmes, founder of J. Holmes Architecture, will take place Jan. 19 to further discuss building plans.