After eight years of using the campus of William Carey International University in Pasadena, Providence Christian College was forced to find a new location when the University decided to sell. Things “providentially” fell into place for Providence’s new and unique campus, several facilities within the historic Playhouse District of Old Pasadena. The move took place during the semester break, between December 17, 2018, and January 8, 2019.
The facilities are all located within a few blocks north of Colorado Boulevard. Providence Residential Village, Ambrose Café, and Witherspoon Hall are within a “linear 30-60 yard walk end to end,” according to Michael Kiledjian, VP of Advancement. The Refectory cafeteria is one block south on the Fuller Seminary campus, and the iconic Star News Building is two blocks farther south.
The Residential Village includes four apartment buildings: the largest for female students, two for male students, and another for some married students and student life staff. Not all the apartments in the fourth building are currently occupied. A fifth building in the complex houses Fuller students, but will likely become available to Providence in the future. Some 150 students (about 90% of Providence’s student population) live in the Village, while the remaining students commute. The existing space could house more than 200 students, and the addition of the fifth building would increase capacity for another 60-70.
Providence students returned to school after the first of the year to attend classes in the new location. And residential students began living in newly-renovated apartments. “We asked students to pack and label their dorm room belongings before they went home for Christmas break,” explains Mr. Kiledjian. “When they returned on January 10 to the new campus, their belongings were in their new apartment. All they had to do was unpack, settle in and decorate.”
Students can use tiered meal plan cards at three nearby locations: the Ambrose Café, the Refectory, and the New School of Cooking (located in the Star News Building). Ambrose Café allows students to take advantage of “grab and go” food or fellowship over coffee or use its spacious study center. The Refectory on Fuller Seminary’s campus provides complete cafeteria dining inside or in a courtyard. The New School of Cooking offers healthy meal options on the first floor of the Star News Building.
The basement of the Star News Building houses 24 Hour Fitness. Providence negotiated a contract with the fitness center last fall for the school’s athletes to use the facility, and the center now offers discounted memberships to the entire student body. Mr. Kiledjian says, “Our athletes used to drive down from the old campus to use the gym—now they have a few short blocks to walk.”
Witherspoon Hall is a large property that was formerly the First Congregational Church. Its large sanctuary is used for weekly chapel services and can seat up to 1200 people, while educational areas of the building cover 80,000 square feet. The building also houses the college library, administrative and faculty offices, and the Academic Resource Center (which includes three separate tutoring areas). Providence currently uses the first two floors, but has plenty of room to expand into a third floor and the basement.
Although apartment interiors were finished before the move, some landscaping and other construction was still in progress in the Residential Village. Not all administrative offices or aspects of technology were completed in time, but almost the entire move into new facilities was accomplished over a remarkably brief period.
“By every measure this move has been a huge success and overwhelmingly welcomed by our student body,” who “handled the move with great resilience and maturity,” Mr. Kiledjian says. Student morale seems “at an all-time high” and social media postings evidence how much students enjoy the “variety and quality of the meal options” as well as the new apartment-style housing arrangements (which include one or two bedrooms, kitchens, and laundry). Students “love the central location of the campus in Old Pasadena” and “seem to also really love the character of the old First Congregational Church building, which we’ve named Witherspoon Hall. I’ve commonly heard students refer to it as having a ‘Hogwarts’ kind of feel.”
The College has taken security precautions with what Mr. Kiledjian calls “a very serious and thorough approach to security with four layers of coverage.” Nearly 40 surveillance cameras have been installed in the Residential Village, and secure gated points have been installed to access the apartments and Witherspoon Hall. Providence has contracted with a security company “to provide ongoing patrols as well as working closely with Fuller Seminary’s security department.” The College has initiated the additional safety measure of an “internal ‘cadet’ system” in which “students are provided a protocol for escorts in the evenings” when “going to and from different parts of the new campus setting.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the March 29, 2019, issue of Christian Renewal.