The largest construction project in the history of Hope College has been approved by the college's Board of Trustees.

The largest construction project in the history of Hope College has been approved by the college's Board of Trustees.

Construction of a new science center received the go-ahead during the January meeting of the trustees, which concluded Friday.

The project, a major component of the college's "Legacies: A Vision of Hope" fund-raising campaign, includes construction of a new building that will be connected to the west side of the college's current Peale Science Center, and the renovation of the current building. The new construction and renovation are expected to total $36 million.

"It's a very, very exciting project for Hope-- there's no question about it," said Dr. James E. Bultman, president of Hope College. "This project has been in the planning stages for the past five years, and I believe represents a state-of-the-art science facility that will only enhance Hope's lofty national reputation in the sciences. Dean Jim Gentile, Director of Operations Greg Maybury and the entire science faculty have done a superb job of creative planning."

Work will begin at the site soon, likely in the coming few weeks. The college anticipates holding a formal groundbreaking ceremony in the spring.

The science center will double the size of the current building, and will include classrooms, laboratories, and office and storage space. Peale Science Center, which opened in 1973, will be updated to better meet contemporary teaching and research needs.

Bultman noted that the project is not only desirable, but essential, given changes in both science and teaching since Peale was built and given the current building's age. "We build buildings so that students and faculty have the necessary facilities to perform at the very highest levels," he said.

"The Peale Science Center has served Hope very well for the past 30 years, but when you look at the changes that have taken place during that time, technologically and pedagogically, one realizes that a more state-of-the-art facility is needed," Bultman said. "The current facility also has some infrastructure challenges--plumbing, electrical, space and air exchange--that must be addressed in the short- rather than long-term."

It is because the need is so great, he said, that Hope is proceeding even as fund-raising continues.

"And so there are risks involved in moving ahead-- but there are also risks involved in not moving ahead," he said. "The former are financial, and the latter are programmatic, and we've chosen to move ahead trusting that the Hope constituency, which has always been generous and faithful, will catch a glimpse of the vision we have for this facility and will lend their support to it at this time."

The expanded building will continue to house the departments of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, the geological and environmental sciences, and psychology, with the department of nursing moving in from its cottage headquarters on 14th Street.

According to Gentile, who is dean for the natural sciences at Hope, the design will complement the college's on-going emphasis on collaborative student-faculty research as a teaching model, with the addition of interdisciplinary classroom space reflecting the way that the boundaries between disciplines continue to blur.

The approach, he noted, will also help make it easier to fit the building to future needs as well. "We'll have a lot of flexibility to be able to adapt to the evolution of science as things move forward over the next several decades," Gentile said.

The new construction is expected to take about 18 months. When the new building is complete, it will be occupied and Peale vacated so that the renovation can begin. The college anticipates that the renovation of Peale should be finished 12 months later.

Architects for the project are Ballinger of Philadelphia, Pa., and Jickling Lyman Powell Associates Inc. of Troy, Mich. The construction manager is Granger Construction Company, based in Lansing, Mich.

The science center project is one of the three major initiatives of the on-going "Legacies: A Vision of Hope" capital campaign, which is also focusing on increasing the college's endowment, and addressing a variety of other short-term and long-term facility and space needs. The campaign was launched in October of 2000.