The campus of Huntington University has been experiencing quite a few major changes in recent months, with the most recent being the tearing down of the Administration Annex in the center of campus.
According to Dr. Russ Degitz, the university’s chief operating officer, the building has been scheduled to be taken down for “quite some time” as part of the plan to grow and re-imagine the Huntington University campus as a whole. Demolition officially began on Monday, July 12.
The choice to demolish the building, rather than try to update it, was mostly because of the age of the building and the inability to fully bring it to ADA compliance. Upon entering the Annex building, there were only two options: go down the stairs into the basement or go upstairs into the second level. There was very little room outside of a small landing area and the stairs, which would make it difficult to add an elevator or other ADA compliance solutions for the area.
According to Degitz, there is not a definite plan for what the space will be used for after debris is completely cleared.
“We have a number of ideas of what it could be used for,” Degitz says.
For now, the area will be a dedicated green space for students to use and enjoy.
University President Dr. Sherilyn Emberton says that she knows the change will come with a mix of emotions - and that she herself is sad, but also thankful for how well the Annex building served HU during its time.
“It’s housed so many functions,” Emberton says. “It’s such an iconic building, I know it meant many things to many people. I feel sadness to see it go, but on the other hand, I feel thankfulness when I think about those who have shaped it into the space that it was.”
Emberton then explained that, for the University, the Annex building had truly out-lived its purposes, and had become more of a hindrance to HU’s growth than helpful to the campus.
Another major change that the campus has experienced is the re-imagined Huntington Union Building (HUB). That project, which was completed during the 2020-21 school year at HU, was a vision that was built not only by campus leaders, but the students themselves.
Updates included creating a Student Life office, bringing the Forest Blend Coffee shop down to the lower level of the building, creating seating areas in the lower level and an outdoor patio and firepit - as well as moving the campus bookstore upstairs and improving seating, lighting and meal options.
With all of the projects that have been ongoing on campus, Emberton has seen a variety of different reactions. She says that, for current students and recent graduates, the reaction to the HUB is often one of shock at how different everything looks. For them, a space that was once so dark and closed off is now very open, usable, flexible and comfortable to spend time in. For older alum, there is a sense of nostalgia - Emberton says that they often speak of how the space looked before the HUB was first constructed.
“There’s also an entire class, where, for about a year and a half, they never even got to experience the HUB,” Emberton says.
That small group of students who have never experienced the HUB are the newcomers that came to
campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emberton says that, with the pandemic, there were many uncertainties - but seeing construction projects around the campus being completed became “a rallying point” for the Foresters.
“It was a way to look to the future and be reminded that God was allowing us to move forward,” Emberton says.
Another major project that Huntington University is gearing up for is a $13.1 million expansion of The Merillat Complex and Fieldhouse - better known as The Plex - which is a project that will be the largest campus expansion project since the completion of Dowden Science Hall in 2005.
“There is a time for building programs, there’s a time for building ministry and service . . . this was our time to restore our facilities,” Emberton says. “Having good bones in our buildings makes it easy.”
These projects are not only decided the faculty of Huntington University, but the students that attend there as well. Emberton says that she knows there will be some shock and surprise when students see the empty space that the Annex building once took up, but also notes that it will be a while before the space becomes something new.
“We’re excited to see how the students will re-envision the space in the years to come,” Emberton says.