By Jessica Clement 
BELLEVILLE – The building where Loyalist students can gather to study, eat, play games and do laundry is about to undergo renovations.
Fred Pollitt, the college’s student life executive director, announced plans for the work to the Residence Commons building at the student government meeting Jan. 16.
“Back on residence move-in day I was doing the walk-through” with Loyalist president Ann Marie Vaughan,” Pollitt said. “I was looking around (Residence Commons) and thinking, ‘What kind of first impressions are we making?’ The building is 16 years old and it’s showing it.”
The budget for the renovation is $175,000, according to student government president C-Jay Stark. The money comes from a grant from the provincial government.
“This is to be used to update a very outdated and old building that is ultimately the centre of residence,” she said in an emailed statement to QNet News.
Loyalist is using Kasian Architecture for the project. This is the same company that worked on the renovations that are being done to the third floor of Loyalist’s Kente Building.
“All of the plans that I have seen (for Residence Commons) are thought out with students, and discussed with a handful of residence (staff) to ensure that the designers get a grasp of what the needs of the students are,” Stark said.
Pollitt said that the timeline for the work is “very, very aggressive.” Construction is to start before the end of March.
“The issues we face now are time and money,” Pollitt said. “We will be listing priorities and finding out what can get done by March 31,” the deadline established by the provincial government.
Renovations to the building have been done in previous years; the laundromat was revamped two years ago. That area, the washrooms and the food bank will all remain the same. The office area at the entrance of the building will be opened up, the security office revamped and new flooring put in, Pollitt said. Plans also consider a charging station in the entrance area for electronic devices. Full renovations will take place in the main area on the first floor, including new flooring, paint and furniture. Additionally, the sunken seating pit at the east side of the building will be filled in and replaced with elevated staging. The student government is looking at the pros and cons of a wall-mounted flat screen or a projection system.
Pollitt said there is a fair amount of work to be done in the access lab study area: “It’s pretty dark (and) dingy, and students need wireless printing.”
On the second floor, plans call for the removal of the hallway bench, replacing it with study carrels. There will also be an office space for the student outreach worker who the college is in the process of hiring. Pollitt noted, however, that this worker will often be going to the location of students rather than spending a lot of time in the new office space.
An elevator or wheelchair lift may be added, he said. “It will be a separate project but we want to put it into the plans now.”
Student government member Scott Rook asked whether students will have access to the building during construction since they’ll still be in residence. Pollitt said the contractors Loyalist has worked with in the past have been diligent about keeping access open to areas not undergoing work, and added that he hopes this will be the case for Commons renovations.
The renovation is important for the success of the school, Pollitt said. If Loyalist is going to be a destination college, it needs to have a great residence program, he said.