College needs $5 million before spring chapel ground breaking

The following was published in the Hillsdale Collegian on October 20, 2016. It has been reposted with permission from the Hillsdale Collegian Staff.

Despite original hopes of breaking ground for the new chapel last October, Hillsdale College wants $5 million before beginning construction on the $28.6-million building.

Although the college has raised more than $19 million and received pledges toward the 27,000-square-foot Christ Chapel, Chief Administrative Officer Rich Péwé said he wants the additional funds because of the size of the project and its timeline. Nonetheless, he said he hopes to break ground in June.

“This is a two-year construction project,” Péwé said. “So even in the first year, you’re going to have a pretty significant bill closer to $15 million.”

The chapel would enclose the fourth side of the Quad, sitting between the Dow Leadership Center and the Grewcock Student Union. It would seat up to 1,300 people. Although the chapel wouldn’t hold regular Sunday services, it could serve as a place for worship, large-scale concerts, and all-school events, including graduation.

Music department chairman James Holleman said he believes the chapel would allow for greater ensemble possibilities in the future.

“Right now, we don’t have a space on campus where we can have the full orchestra and the full choir,” Holleman said. “We’ll be able to fit the full orchestra and the entire choir on stage.”

With its neoclassical architectural design, the chapel also presents the opportunity to revive a traditional style, Péwé said.

“There really hasn’t been a building built like this in the last 60 years, as far as churches go,” Péwé said.

The sooner the college raises the money for the chapel, the sooner it can also look further into some of its other large projects, including renovations in the Searle Center and Knorr Student Center.
Phase two of the Searle Center renovations includes doubling the seating capacity of Phillips Auditorium from 350 to 700 seats. Phase one included rebuilding its dining hall, its kitchen, and its lobby.

“The Phillips Auditorium renovations that are anticipated, the Searle Center construction that was completed, these things are important ways of perpetuating the college’s mission both internally for our students and externally for the world in which our students are operating,” Provost David Whalen said.

Renovations in Knorr include creating a larger career services office with a  business center. The college would add rooms for interviews and classes. Additionally, it would open a new café and pub. In near proximity to the Dow Center’s hotel, the renovated space would become friendlier for current students, visiting alumni, corporate recruiters, and other visitors,  Péwé said.

Although both projects are expected to take one year, no specific construction date has been agreed upon, Péwé said. Péwé said he expects the projects to cost approximately $5 million each. He added that as soon as adequate funding is reached, the school plans on moving forward.