May 8, 2002
The span over the East Beltline linking the Calvin campus is a visible reminder that expansion is taking place at the college. On May 8 the school will celebrate the completion of that 380-foot structure (the length of four basketball courts) with a short service of dedication and a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a walk across the crossing to the east campus for refreshments.
The service will mark a construction process that took almost one year exactly from start to finish. Held at the western foot of the crossing, on the main campus, the service will include all three living Calvin presidents: current president Dr. Gaylen Byker; his immediate predecessor, Dr. Anthony Diekema (president from 1975-1995); and the man who was president when Calvin purchased the Knollcrest campus in the 1950s, Dr. William Spoelhof (president from 1950-1975).
Together the trio will officially open the approximately $4 million span, cutting the ribbon and leading the first walk across an overcrossing that is unprecedented in the state. Other participants in the service are college Chaplain Dale Cooper and college alum Bill DeRose, whose son, Kevin, died in 1989 while a Calvin student in attempting to cross the Beltline (the only student to die in such an accident).
The senior class is raising funds for two plaques with the Calvin nameplate that adorn the two towers and members of the senior class will play a role in the May 8 ceremony as well.
"There's nothing like it," says Calvin vice president Henry DeVries of the new crossing. "It not only will carry people across the East Beltline, it also carries all of the heating and cooling and communications needs for the East campus from the main campus."
It is that second factor that makes the project unique.
"There are other pedestrian overcrossings in the state," says DeVries, "but this one doubles as part of our powerplant. That meant significantly more engineering considerations."
Consequently the structure is made up of four sections or trusses of structural steel. All told the steel alone weighs about 150 tons. The floor is five inches of concrete on top of steel decking with 4,000 to 5,000 sections of special tiling laid, by hand, on top of that. And then two ribbons of glass window panes (with each pane each weighing between 125 and 175 pounds) and a metal domed roof enclose the structure.
"It's solid," says Marty Malek of Wolverine Construction, which is coordinating the project.
It's solid and designed for safety, both for the safety of Calvin students and employees who need to cross the Beltline between the two campuses and also for the safety of the thousands of cars that pass below it each day on the East Beltline. There is a sophisticated snowmelt system on the roof to ensure that chunks of snow and ice do not fall from the roof to the road below. And the entire roof is specially designed as a domed roof with two layers of steel separated by four inches of insulation, thus keeping the inside layer warm and the outside layer cold.
In addition all of the lighting inside the arc, which will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is both muted and directed straight down, minimizing glare for drivers on the Beltine. And the crossing is 20 feet above the road at its highest point, providing plenty of clearance for vehicles.
Although it passes over one of the busiest roads in Grand Rapids, Calvin architect Frank Gorman wanted to create a subtle nautical theme for the span. He notes that the this theme is present inside and outside. For example, the tiled floor, hand-designed by 1978 Calvin graduate Dave Daining of Beta Design, which at each end sees tiles in earth tones, browns and greys and greens, but in the middle sees a shift to water colors, shades of blues. The pattern is intended to depict a transition from land to water. And that ties together work Gorman did in designing the two towers of the crossing, one on either side of the East Beltline, to look like lighthouses.
The crossing will be a big benefit to the Calvin community. It also will benefit those who drive the Beltline. That's because the crosswalk and light on the northbound Beltline, just north of Burton Street, will be eliminated in early June thanks to the crossing, thus improving traffic flow at the corner of Burton and the Beltline.
The two new buildings that the crossing will connect with, the DeVos Communication Center and the Prince Conference Center, are slated to open in September 2002.