OCC board approves Orchard Ridge renovations

By: David Wallace | Farmington Press | Published September 30, 2011


At this time next year, J Building on the Oakland Community College Orchard Ridge Campus should be more than halfway through approximately $6.2 million in repairs and renovations.

The college’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the construction Sept. 20. Specifically, workers will waterproof the concrete plaza surrounding J Building — also known as Tirrell Hall or the Student Center — and renovate the interior.

“It’s actually the largest building in the entire college,” said Orchard Ridge President Jacqueline Shadko. Oakland Community College has more than 70 buildings on five campuses.

Over the years, the concrete plaza’s lead membrane lost integrity, allowing water to leak through.

“There’s seepage into the building,” said OCC Communications Director George Cartsonis.

The water gets into the lower level and damages the ceiling pads, which the college is in the process of removing. That work exposes the building’s infrastructure, but it hasn’t created a disruption yet, and people have gotten used to the leakage.

“It’s been going on for such a long time, we’ve learned to work around it,” she said.

In addition to fixing the plaza around the building, work on the interior will include renovating study spaces and classrooms, plus making improvements to the bookstore and cafeteria.

“The lower level of the J Building is the central gathering place for our students,” Shadko said. “It’s a space that students use to study and socialize.”

The building has wireless Internet access, but not enough plugs for the many students who use laptops to recharge their batteries; the renovations will amend that.

College officials plan to rearrange the bookstore to make it more easy to use, and they’ll expand the cafeteria to offer diners more choices. Plans also call for technology upgrades in four lecture halls.

“It will have a very sort of modern look to it,” said Shadko, who compared it to Building G at the college’s Auburn Hills Campus.

College officials anticipate putting the project out for bids this fall, perhaps in early November, and work could begin in March, with a goal to finish the project at the end of November 2012.

“The firms are working on the construction documents right now,” Shadko said.

If the timeline goes according to plan, construction will overlap the end of the winter semester, the summer semester and the always big fall semester.

“It will be a disruption, and we have a communications plan set up,” Shadko said, to alert those on campus about what areas to avoid during the project’s phases. The college’s website, www.oaklandcc.edu, will spread the word about what areas members of the public who come to the college for activities should avoid.

During the construction, college officials will try to preserve classroom use and access to adjacent buildings, which include the Smith Theatre.

The project funding comes from 0.8-mills that county voters approved in 2010. The funds from that tax go to building restoration, technology upgrades, scholarships and new academic program development.

The Orchard Ridge Campus opened in 1968, and is now open six days a week.

“Our campuses are open year round,” said Cartsonis. “That’s a lot of traffic, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and a lot of wear.”

Back in March, the Board of Trustees approved about $375,000 for J Building work that included exterior sealant and new windows. That same month, the board approved around $100,000 to replace deteriorated lintels in buildings K, L and M.