Driving pass COM on Amburn Dr. will see a contemporary looking Student Center when renovations are completed.
Driving pass COM on Amburn Dr. will see a contemporary looking Student Center when renovations are completed.Portions of COM gymnasium and pool area will become a multipurpose meeting facility capable of hosting up to 600 people. This view shows a planned new approach to the building.

This spring semester promises to be one many COM students will never forget.

Fifty-one years after the college was founded, the campus is about to begin the first phase of a major “overhaul”—with extensive renovation projects beginning on the college’s aging infrastructure, its familiar Student Center, gymnasium, and chemistry lab.

Funds for these renovations comes from a $16.9 million maintenance tax note approved by the Board of Trustees in October.

“Our facilities have served several generations of students,” said President Dr. Warren Nichols., “but upgrades are overdue. The board and administration are taking bold steps to create a first-class learning environment for our students, and do it this year. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Work crews will begin the first project later in January—replacing underground pipes and utilities.

Then, in short order, students will see scaffolding and construction equipment on campus as crews begin modernizing the college’s Physical Education building, a familiar landmark on campus.

Plans developed by PBK Architects of League City and approved by trustees call for the existing swimming pool, now out of service, to be infilled and the space converted into a multipurpose facility.

The space will serve as a multipurpose room offering up to 560 seats in a lecture style configuration, and an additional 360 seats positioned around moveable tables. The room will be able to operate as one large room, or easily subdivided into three smaller meeting rooms.

Additional building enhancements include new restrooms, a prep room, furniture storage, a conference room, and an exterior drop-off lane with canopies and terrace seating. Modernization of the facility also includes upgrading the existing locker and shower rooms, as well as the fitness center rooms around the existing gym.

Once completed, the new space will serve as a temporary home to employees of the Student Center building, which will undergo its own major facelift.

According to plans, all exterior brick (masonry) walls will be removed and replaced with new metal stud walls, insulation and brick.

“The design solution will enable compliance with current codes for energy and wind ratings, as well as cladding the existing cantilever with metal panels and adding ribbon windows for the offices that currently do not have windows,” said Alan Stilts, associate principal for PBK.

 An outside terrace will be added to the north façade adjacent to the existing lake, along with a canopy and sunlight screens to aid in shading the terrace and existing curtain wall glass (double height space) inside the Student Center.

The south façade will receive a canopy and partial second-floor lobby addition over the main entrance.

Interior upgrades include new ceilings, lighting, and flooring throughout the building, as well as converting the existing kitchen into a café retail convenience store for students.

The college will also modernize an existing chemistry lab into a state-of-the-art learning environment for approximately $1.2 million.

Renovations include removing all existing casework, flooring, workstations, ceilings, instructor station, and down-draft fume ventilation systems.

The orientation of the room will be modified to maximize student views and instructor oversight by utilizing new Axis student workstations with built-in sinks, power and gas.

All projects are expected to be completed before classes open for the fall 2018 semester next August.