Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was in Springfield today for the dedication of a new building on a community college campus.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by close to 200 people, Baker praised the $50 million project that took a 100,000-square foot armory storehouse built just before the Civil War and transformed it into a modern energy-efficient center for student services at Springfield Technical Community College.
" To me the most important thing about this was the opportunity with a particular facility that had sat vacant and done nothing for a really long time to breath life back into it and make it what I believe will ultimately become sort of the heartbeat of the campus," said Baker.
The building is named the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons after the former STCC president who retired in 2016.
"This is a marvelous tribute to a man who absolutely gets what this kind of school is suppose to be all about," said Baker.
Groundbreaking for the extensive renovation of the historic building took place two years ago, but the origin of the project goes back a decade to when Rubenzahl secured the initial funds for it in a 2008 bond bill approved by then-Gov.Deval Patrick.
Rubenzahl said he is humbled to have the building named for him.
"I think it means the college and the board of trustees respected my work," said Rubenzhal, who was college president for 12 years.
Known as Building 19, the 764-foot-long, 55-foot-wide building was used to store everything from gun barrel stocks to livestock for the Springfield Armory which was closed in 1968. The building is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
STCC President John Cook said the renovation project presented some unique challenges given the age of the building and its unusual dimensions.
"Where to begin? Incluidng things like the mechanical systems and where to put them in a buildng like this," said Cook. He praised the archetect and the "perserverance" of the college's staff.
The new building will bring all student administrative offices under one roof, eliminating what has long been known on campus as the “STCC shuffle”— the need to go from building to building to obtain student services.
" Everything comes together in one single location and that gives us opportunties to master plan and reconceive how our campus will function," said Cook.
A library, the campus bookstore, a café, and a health center will also be in the Learning Commons, which will open for students when the next semester starts in January.