Lake Norcentra Project
Since the founding of Rochester College in 1959, the area surrounding Lake Norcentra has been a favorite campus feature for the college community. Located on the north side of campus where the Clinton River and Clinton River Trail intersect, this scenic area comprises about 30 acres of high bluffs, historic buildings, wetlands, and woodlands.
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Some Initial Concepts
for the Future
History of Lake Norcentra
Detroit advertising executive Lou Maxon developed a country estate on Avon Road in rural Rochester in the early 1940s. His estate included a beautiful home, two small lakes, and elaborately landscaped grounds around those lakes. He decided to sell the property in 1957, the same year a foundation board was looking for a site to establish North Central Christian College, the name first given to Rochester College.
The estate charmed the campus search committee, so the founding board immediately began negotiations and purchased the property the same year. The larger lake on the estate quickly became a symbol of the newly-formed institution. Early leaders derived a name for the lake from the first institutional name. Photographs of Lake Norcentra appeared on the earliest promotional materials and the pioneer student body readily embraced the symbol.
When a new alumni board formed in the fall of 2012, leaders identified the area surrounding Lake Norcentra as one of the most memorable areas of campus for alumni and a priority for the board’s efforts. They subsequently planned cleanup days to improve the appearance of the area, but desired to do much more. They decided to develop a master plan for future development of the area and began enlisting individuals to help with the planning process.
Since Lake Norcentra sits in a strategic location on the Clinton River Trail, committee chairperson Brad Irwin began contacting potential partners in the community who might be interested in revitalizing the lake area as a destination point on the trail. An enthusiastic response led to the formation of a team of professional and community leaders charged with the development of a master plan for the space.
Four organizations are collaborating to guide the Lake Norcentra conceptual design process.
- Rochester College – owner of the property
- BT Irwin LLC – consultant and project manager
- Lawrence Technological University College of Architecture and Design – faculty and student design team
- Team-4-Community – sponsor and supervisor of the student design team
The steering committee is working with Lawrence Tech and a team of professional environmental engineers, hydrologists, and landscape architects to develop a functional master plan. Rob Clarke, an alumni board member, and his firm, CBI Design Professionals, are providing valuable support services for the committee. The committee represents several local organizations.
- City of Rochester
- City of Rochester Hills
- Clinton River Watershed Council
- Friends of the Clinton River Trail
- Oakland County
- Paint Creek Center for the Arts
- Rochester Area Recreation Authority
- Rochester Avon Historical Society
- Rochester College
- Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Progress and Planning
Public Forum. The steering committee hosted a public forum on April 24 to solicit input from both the campus and local communities concerning development of the Lake Norcentra area. Guests explored the lake surroundings early that evening. Glen LeRoy, dean of Lawrence Technological University’s College of Architecture and Design, then facilitated a brainstorming session in the Richardson Center Theatre.
Survey. The steering committee sought input from alumni, students, employees, college supporters, and members of the local community during the month of May. They conducted an online survey using the same questions posed at the April 24 public forum.
Design Charette. The steering committee convened May 29-31 for an intensive three-day design charette. Working with Glen Leroy, Rob Clarke, designers from Team-4-Community (Harold Remlinger, Shari Stein, and Ralph Nunez), Scott Dierks of Cardno JFNew, and architectural students from Lawrence Tech, the committee considered various options for the lake area. Over the course of the weekend, the committee selected its highest priorities for inclusion in a master plan and viewed initial proposals. Some of the elements of the proposal include:
- Lake – restoration of the lake water supply and the lake’s island
- Pathway – construction of an elevated path on the south side of the lake to stabilize the high bluffs and provide a walking trail around the entire lake
- Gallaher Café – restoration of the patio area overlooking the lake from Gallaher Center
- Trail Gateways – arched entryways into the campus from the Clinton River Trail
- Shared Space with Community – an area with seating and landscaping next to the Clinton River Trail in the area currently occupied by the maintenance shed
- Amphitheatre – seating for about 40 on the west end of the lake with a stage area projecting over the lake
- Fire Pit – restoration and enlargement of the fire pit located on the bluff near Palmer Hall
Design Refinement. The design team will refine proposals from the charette and prepare budget projections over the course of the summer. A final plan will be submitted to the college trustees at their October meeting for their input and approval.
The Alumni Association and Thrivent Financial will host a Lake Norcentra Volunteer Day on Saturday, June 14. Alumni, friends, and local residents are invited to assist with cleanup of the area surrounding Lake Norcentra. Volunteers will be raking, trimming, removing fallen trees, and making the area look great for summer. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Please register so organizers can plan appropriately.
Additional information and photos are posted regularly on a Lake Norcentra Facebook page. Be sure to “like” the page for regular updates.
Stay tuned for further developments!