The renovation of College Hall is currently underway at Montclair State University with some offices already moved out and more planned to relocate soon. The project is expected to take about two years to complete with plans to make the building and all of its offices more accessible to students.
Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dr. Karen Pennington said there’s a process for how the university decides which buildings need to be renovated or built based on students’ priorities. College Hall was included on that list.
College Hall is the oldest building on campus and was originally built in 1908 when the university opened. Pennington said it was decided that the renovation of the building would include a new student services center that will make life easier for students.
This new student services center, which will be called Red Hawk Central, will be a place where students can speak with people from the registrar’s office, financial aid and student accounts all in one place. Pennington said the goal for this new center is to ease the frustration of students and stop them from having to track down the right person to talk to about an issue.
“We want people to stop running around fruitlessly, needlessly from pillar to post trying to get something done but [rather] have a central place that will work for them,” Pennington said.
“The design and layout for Red Hawk Central will be an open floor plan that also includes private meeting spaces to meet all levels of advising or service needs,” Director of Red Hawk Central Dr. Tara Morlando-Zurlo said. She also said that the staff of Red Hawk Central will be cross-trained for different offices so students are better able to get the answers they need.
Peter Zezas, a sophomore double majoring in communication and media arts and theatre studies, liked the idea of Red Hawk Central after having this problem during his freshman year. He needed help and was told by each person he went to that he had to go somewhere else. He was hopping from building to building trying to find the right person.
“I think it’ll be helpful to students – new students, old students, just students in general,” Zezas said. “It’ll be a nice hub for everything… It’ll all be in one area.”
The longevity of the construction project has the anticipated reopening of College Hall tentatively set for either September 2019 or June 2020. The construction fenced up around the building currently cuts off a frequented path from Freeman Hall to the rest of campus.
Some students, like freshman fashion major Meghan Sowinski, are frustrated by the construction but believe the benefits of the building will be worth the extra time to get to class.
“Right now I think it’s kind of inconvenient to walk around,” Sowinski said. “In the end, I think it’ll be worth it because it’ll be easier in the long run having everything [in] one place versus walking around campus trying to find out where you need to go.”
Nicolette Pezzolla, a sophomore industrial design major, said that her major classes are located in College Hall, which makes the construction inconvenient to walk around to get inside the building.
College Hall is expected to be completely vacated by the end of the semester. The graphics department where Pezzolla has some of her classes will be relocated to the library. Also, the student services offices will be moved to modular units, which will be located in Lot 7 across from Red Hawk Deck, for students to still have access to these services. Lot 7, which provides parking for Montclair State faculty and staff, has been closed off and will not be available for parking next semester.
According to Pennington, the modular units are quite large and will be able to hold about 20 people along with having available counter space to assist students.
“I think the modular units are a good idea to an extent,” Pezzolla said. “It’s very unprofessional to have them in a parking lot.”
During the transition process, offices will be moving to these modular units or to other buildings on campus. Einstein’s Bagels will not be part of the transition process and is set to close by early November. The bagel shop is expected to return as part of the new building, but some students are upset they’ll have a long time to wait to get their Einstein’s fix.
“I love Einstein’s Bagels,” Pezzolla said. “It’s one of my favorite places on campus. All my friends go in between class, and we always come back with stacks of chocolate chip cookies. They’re like the best chocolate chip cookies on campus.”
Along with the newer and bigger Einstein’s Bagels, the new College Hall building will have a two-story atrium, a second floor lounge and other dining options on the first floor. As a freshman, Sowinski looks forward to getting as much time as she can out of this new building when it’s completed.
“Knowing that I’ll be able to utilize it for two [years], I feel like it’s worth it,” Sowinski said.
“I hope students, and their familes, say that Red Hawk Central encourages self-advocacy while also helping them address barriers and identify solutions associated with their enrollment, progress and degree completion,” Morlando-Zurlo said.