HOLLAND — As Hope College looks at a potential expansion of its campus, it sees the project as a “gateway” between Hope and downtown Holland.
The project, which remains in the early stages of development, would add three buildings to the northside of Hope’s campus, extending the college’s footprint to Eighth Street downtown.
Hope presented the plan to the Holland Planning Commission during a June 14 study session. Over the next couple of months, Hope is using feedback from the commission to re-evaluate its plans. The college will meet with the group again in August.
“We’re very early in the process, we just recently decided to develop this property that we’ve owned for a while,” Slater said. “We were looking for a location to build, this bubbled to the top of the list.”
When Hope settled on this location, which the college has owned since 2005, it ended up being larger than what was needed for a single building, so the project grew.
“When we landed on this site for a new academic building, we realized the parcel we own is larger than we needed for one building,” Slater said. “In addition to an academic building that will house our economic and business departments, we’re also looking at a building for mixed use on Eighth and the possibility for a mixed use one on the corner of Columbia and Ninth.”
The exact purpose of the mixed-use buildings is yet to be determined, but Slater said they’re likely to include student housing on upper floors and more community-focused space on the ground floors.
In addition to the new buildings, the expansion is planned to include a significant amount of green space to maintain a “campus feel.”
“That was one of the key things in our planning process,” Slater said. “We want to make sure this property really feels like it’s still part of campus. For that, we really wanted a lot of green space.
“This parcel is a great connection between Hope and downtown. We want it to feel like part of Hope, but also part of downtown. It’s a gateway between the two.”
Should the plan move forward, the former Versendaal car dealership building, which Hope currently uses for storage, would come down to make way for the new space.
At this time, no firm building designs, timeline or project costs have been established. Slater said once active fundraising for the project begins, that will help the college determine a timeline.
Slater said the college is seeing a need for additional classroom spaces and student housing.
“We are seeing a need, because of course scheduling, for more classrooms,” she said. “Our steady enrollment is making us look closely at expanding some programs and housing.”
Hope College received a record number of incoming student deposits for this fall. While it’s not guaranteed that will translate to a record freshman class, it is a possibility for the college.
Many other colleges and universities are seeing a drop in enrollment. Administrators often point to a smaller population of college-aged students, students staying closer to home, the pandemic and a strong job market enticing high school graduates directly into the workforce.
Hope also has an Anchored Tuition pledge, meaning incoming students will have a fixed tuition rate throughout their time at the college; tuition increases only affect new students. The strategy is part of the college’s Hope Forward initiative, which has a goal of fully funding student tuition through an endowment at the college. The model would fund tuition up front with students committing to give to Hope after graduation.
Hope estimates the endowment needs to be raised by $1.1 billion in order to implement Hope Forward. However, a pilot program launched this year through an anonymous gift. Two groups of approximately 20 students enrolling for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years are the first cohorts of Hope Forward.
Hope College saw a 1 percent increase in total students from the fall of 2020 to the fall of 2021, going against the decreasing trend some larger schools are experiencing.
Allendale-based Grand Valley State University saw enrollment drop 4 percent during the same time period. Kalamazoo-based Western Michigan University had a 7 percent decrease and Mt. Pleasant-based Central Michigan University dropped 11 percent.