Hendricks Center almost complete

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The former Beloit Public Library’s transformation into the Hendricks Center for the Arts is almost complete.

Corporate Contractors Inc. (CCI) is adding the finishing touches this week in preparation for Aug. 23 when students will celebrate with a campus picnic at 5 p.m. in the building’s parking lot before the first day of classes the following day, according to Jason Hughes, Beloit College’s director of communications and marketing.

“There’s still work under way on the building, but at this point we have moved faculty and musical equipment into the building,” Hughes said. “The Hendricks Center for the Arts is really going to be the center of what’s happening in dance and music on our campus.”

The 48,000-square-foot structure at the corner of Grand Avenue and Pleasant Street, is a gift to Beloit College from Beloit business leader Diane Hendricks and her late husband and Beloit College trustee Ken Hendricks. Beloit College will open the former library as an educational facility for the arts this fall.

The renovation project cost about $4 million.

The renovated facility, which will house the college’s music and dance programs and other campus educational activities, became available when the Hendricks Group assumed sole ownership of the former Beloit Mall and began to transform it into a community resource, renaming it the Eclipse Center.

The city was able to purchase the former J.C. Penney’s department store space in the Eclipse Center and move the Beloit Public Library to the renovated and enlarged location. As part of the arrangement, the city transferred ownership of the original downtown library to the Hendricks family. In turn, the family gave it to the college as a completed new facility. The gift to the college includes the structure and renovations.

On Wednesday, CCI Project Manager Clint Wallisch explained how the facility is shaping up. He said it was completed mostly by July, with crews adding paint touch-ups this week.

CCI began the project in late December. Workers have raised ceilings and torn off portions of the roof. The cement and marble floors were polished, and features from its history as a post office have been included in the renovations. Wallisch said the building is undergoing its fourth renovation, with earlier ones in 1910 as well as the 1930s and 1970s.

Although the historic building had a single person elevator, a hospital-sized one was added in order to get pianos and other instruments up through the building.

The special acoustic capabilities of the orchestral room will help keep sound in. Risers are being set up to make it ideal for classroom performances in a rich acoustic environment. CCI also had to built a dance studio with a raised ceiling so dancers could be tossed in the air safety.

Wallisch said the College has plans to add film curriculum. He added film room may be ripe for a spot for Beloit International Film Festival movies to be shown.

Hughes said there are two dance studios and the largest one is wired for sound and is ideal for dance or other performances.

Hughes is excited about the picnic for the students. After the academic convocation in Eaton Chapel, students will be introduced to the building. He added that the first floor of the building has 13 different study nooks.

“All students will be able to use the building, even if they use it for a few hours of studying,” Hughes said.

The formal grand opening and dedication for the Hendricks Center for the Arts will be on Oct. 8. The event is by invitation only, and will include Hendricks family representatives, faculty, students and invited guests.

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