After breaking ground in September, the Westlawn renovation is currently on track for its mid-October construction deadline, with hopes of having the dining space open in August.  

Brian Mast, director of facilities, has been at the helm of the project in collaboration with DJ Construction. About the current progress, Mast said, “We’re focusing on the kitchen right now, and trying to get that finished … so that we can get rid of the temporary dining trailer and be back in there.”

Lon Roth, a superintendent at DJ Construction, said that even though the goal is to have the kitchen open in August, “that also includes about 75% of my project because they got to have access to [the building].”

During a tour of the site, I had the chance to interview three of the people who have been working on this project, including Roth. 

Jim Barden, an electrician, talked about the challenges of his job. “You do this a certain way over here,” he said, “but then you come here [and] you have to make sure you’re out of the plumber’s way,” Barden said. “You’ve got to be thinking four, five, six steps ahead for what you need to do.”

Jose Alvarado is a carpenter for DJ Construction, and the person responsible for chipping up all the old tile in the kitchen and annex. 

“Every time we do something, we go through some challenges because the building’s so old,” he said. “We don’t know what’s been behind these walls.”

As with any project, there are going to be challenges. “It’s a 70-year-old building,” Mast said,  “and so while we had a pretty good idea of how it was built, … until you start removing blocks, you don’t really know how it was put together.”

Roth said, “As frustrating as it is … it’s fun to dig into [old buildings] and see what they’re actually made of.”

Mast said, “The biggest reward is yet to come when we’re into the space and we see the students and professors thrive in a state-of-the-art learning environment.” 

The upper floors of Westlawn are going to be primarily dedicated to the nursing and public health departments. They will house everything from faculty offices to simulation labs and full hospital rooms. 

The first floor, along with the dining hall and kitchen, will have a two-story student lounge and a multipurpose space that will be open to everyone. 

“I’m excited for the campus community about the … third spaces that we’re creating,” Mast said.  

This sentiment was shared by Fatima Zahara, a junior music and theater double major. “It’d be great if more people take advantage of Westlawn … as a third space for people to be and just exist in,” Zahara said. “I hope that it actually works.” 

As a resident of Kenwood House, one of Goshen College’s Intentional Living Communities, Zahara talked about how the Westlawn renovation has disrupted her commute to campus every day. 

“The worst thing is not having that walkway that you used to be there,” Zahara said.

She explained how Kenwood has developed a “three rug solution” to keep the mud they have been tracking out of the house. 

Beyond dirty Air Forces, Zahara said, “What we’re more worried about is damaging the environment right there, because we have walked so much on that grass.”

While there may not be a whole lot happening on the outside, Mast said “there’s a tremendous amount happening inside.

“At any one time,” he said, “there are 20 to 30 people working inside the building to try to get this done for our students.”