Northeast pumps new life into old building

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by jamesc  2/23/2017 12:28:29 PM -- 

NORFOLK, NE – Arlo Wirth would have no doubt been proud to see what the building that bears his name on the Northeast Community College campus here has become. The structure has been given a face lift in order to welcome new tenants - the College’s wind energy technology and Allied Health Division programs.

The building, named after the late College board of governors’ member from Hartington, was constructed in 1974, a year after Northeast opened. 

John Blaylock, vice president of Educational Services, said the programs previously housed in the building, electrical construction and control and electromechanical, joined with three other programs to move into Northeast’s new Applied Technology building elsewhere on campus.

“We spent 12-15 months repurposing the Arlo Wirth building as ‘swing space’ for programs that will likely move somewhere else on campus in the years to come based on the College’s future Master Facilities and Site Plan.”

Wind Energy Technology, which previously was located in other locations on campus, utilizes one end of the Arlo Wirth building while several Allied Health programs, including paramedic, certified nurse assistant (CNA), medication aide and others, occupy additional space in the building.

“With having those previous programs in the building for 20-plus years, it began to show its wear,” Blaylock said. “The College’s maintenance staff, with assistance from students, cleaned and renovated the building and turned it into a showcase for the programs and students working in there now.”

In addition to the lab areas for the wind energy technology and Allied Health programs, there are general purpose classrooms that are utilized to teach classes such as math, veterinary technology, communications and others. 

Lyle Kathol, dean of Applied Technology, said it is good to see wind energy technology locate in the building.

“It’s a convenient location because it is close to the College’s 100-foot wind turbine on the north end of campus. It is also in the area where other Applied Technology programs are located on campus.”

Although it is considered as adaptive reuse of a facility - the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than which it was originally designed and built - faculty, staff and students in the Allied Health programs who use the building are appreciative to have their own space for several programs.

“It may be swing space, but it’s home for now,” said Dr. Michele Gill, dean of Health and Wellness. “Paramedic, CNA, medication aide classes, CPR/First Aid training classes, as well as some Fridays @ Northeast classes are held in Arlo Wirth. It is a heavily used building.”

Gill is also thankful to have space for a number of pieces of equipment that are used in Allied Health programs, including an inside area to house the College’s teaching ambulance.

“I chuckled when we moved because I didn’t realize we had so much equipment and instructional aids. With the space we have now, faculty and students have easy access to it,” she said. 

The Allied Health Lab in the building includes six hospital beds surrounded by curtains and a private testing lab, which is necessary for State of Nebraska licensure testing for nurse aide students. On the other side of the lab is an area for the teaching ambulance and a number of simulation booths used by paramedic students for scenario-based applications. In previous locations, the students had to set up and take down each time they took part in the exercises.

The Arlo Wirth building is not the College’s first foray into adaptive reuse of its facilities. Four-years ago, a plan was approved to repurpose the former Broadcasting/Electronics building into space for the College’s new information technology program.

“These repurposing endeavors at Northeast Community College are, in a sense, about community improvement, similar to the effort to revitalize downtown areas across America,” said Dr. Michael Chipps, president. “When we repurpose a building and make it better, it allows for more functionality for those who learn and work in these spaces – our students and faculty. It clearly illustrates that a community college is nimble and flexible and ready to respond to the ever changing needs of communities and the skilled workforce. After all, educating America’s future workforce is the College’s primary mission.”

Northeast has been working over the past year with professional planners to create the Master Facilities and Site Plan for all properties in the College’s 20-county service area. Planners conducted nearly fifty focus group sessions with Northeast faculty, staff, students and others to determine how to best use college facilities and land over the next decade and beyond. The plan is to be finalized this spring.

Chipps said while the plan will include some proposed new facilities, it will also take into account repurposing and renovation of existing buildings. 

“With Northeast’s Vision 2020 strategic plan at the forefront of major decisions regarding programming, the Master Facilities and Site Plan is a roadmap that will help guide leadership conversations and future decisions. A college is so much more than buildings; it is about providing students a high quality education in a setting that is conducive to learning and providing wrap-around support services that allow them to grow, be successful and able to work in the age of collaboration.”



                              PHOTO CUTLINE 


In the top photo from 2010, Northeast Community College electrical construction and control students work in simulation booths in a lab in the College’s Arlo Wirth building. Today, the booths have been renovated and expanded and are now used by students in Northeast’s paramedic program (bottom photo). The new Allied Health classroom/lab is an example of adaptive reuse of buildings on the College’s Norfolk Campus. 

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