Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is sporting a new look.

With a new facade, exterior paint, a new main entrance, sidewalks, parking and an iron sculpture representing the bridge between the Twin Ports cities, the ribbon was cut for a two-year, $1.5 million project that gave Superior’s 40-year-old technical college new life.

“The project is about 95% completed,” said Stephanie Erdmann, vice president of academic affairs and Superior campus administrator. “There’s small things that have to get finished … grass needs to grow. There are some nicks and dings that have to get put into place. Seems like there might be some sidewalk work that will have to get adjusted as we’re already seeing pathways being cross through and we don’t have sidewalks there.”

During the first phase of the project, in 2018, the building got a new facade and exterior paint, and preliminary work to move the main entrance from North 21st Street to the Catlin Avenue side of the building into the atrium was completed.

Other projects included relocating the Student Life office, replacing glass on the atrium’s exterior wall, installing new plumbing throughout the building and renovating bathrooms on the second and third floors. Technology and industry labs and classrooms were also remodeled and retooled.

The second phase of the project completed the new entrance, created new parking lots for students and staff and added a patio on Catlin Avenue. New backlit pylon signs now make the school visible from blocks away. The entrance to the college’s conference center was also updated, and smaller versions of the sculpture now marks entrances to the buildings.

People gather outside of the new main entrance at WITC for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday afternoon in Superior. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
People gather outside of the new main entrance at WITC for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday afternoon in Superior. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

To accommodate stormwater runoff from the new parking lots, bioswales were created and planted to filter silt and pollution from the surface water.

Erdmann said the bioswales were just planted in the last week, so it’s a little early to tell how they will work.

“I was a little bit frustrated the landscaping hadn’t been in, but I was happy it wasn’t because they drove all over everything to put the signs in anyway,” Erdmann said. “So there had to be this step before this step.”

During the project, several trees had to be taken down to make room for the new parking lot north of the building.

“We did take down a bunch of trees, but 26 trees were put back up,” Erdman said. She wasn’t sure of the exact number of trees that were removed, but the new plantings replaced slightly more than were taken out.

The pine trees were replaced with hardwoods, Erdmann said.

In celebration of the project, the campus held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and hosted the Chamber’s Business after Five event Sept. 25. Erdmann estimated that 60-70 people showed up for the ribbon-cutting alone.

“I was pleased with the turnout … It was wonderful to see such a community outpouring of support,” Erdman said. “I’ve been asking just out of curiosity what people think of the changes.”

Before the project, the campus blended in with the landscape, and Erdmann said she was pleased to see the campus now stands out.

There is new signage for the main entrance at WITC in Superior. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
There is new signage for the main entrance at WITC in Superior. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

“Now with the front, I wonder why that wasn’t the front 40 years ago,” Erdmann said. “It just makes so much more sense.”

Over the last five years, Erdmann said about $10 million has been invested in the campus after decades of not investing in the maintenance of the building.

While the two-year project is nearly complete, plans are in the works for modernizing the classrooms on the third floor for next generation learning and connectivity to WITC’s campuses in Ashland, New Richmond and Rice Lake, Erdmann said.

“We’ll probably have more classrooms of smaller size because of our delivery methods that we’re using,” Erdmann said. She said with students having the option to attend class in-person, online or a combination of both, the smaller “huddle rooms” make more sense.

The Superior campus serves more than 1,000 students by offering 59 associate degree, technical diploma and certificate programs.