Dickinson State University will begin construction of Centennial Plaza soon thanks to a grant from Stark Development Corporation.

"Essentially, the idea was to kind of create a space for community members and for our campus community to have a space to congregate on campus that was different than our academic buildings or our student center, somewhere outdoors for them to enjoy," said Michelle Wilson, committee member of the Centennial Plaza work group.

Total funds available for the project include $50,000 from Stark Development Corporation and $25,000 in-kind from the university.

"The idea of the plaza evolved out of a conversation with President Mitzel regarding our facade improvement program and if it could be used to create a more inviting gathering space at the entrance to May Hall. That conversation developed with my board and they wanted to help create a space to honor the DSU graduates and specifically the entrepreneurs that have walked out the doors of May Hall and contributed to building our community," said Ryan Jilek, executive vice-president of Stark Development Corporation.

There was mixed feedback about the initial design, so Mitzel created a work group of faculty and staff.

"We brainstormed a location for the plaza and then some amenities that we thought would be great for it. Once we put that all together, we got the initial approval from Dr. Mitzel and then we got the approval from Stark Development to move forward with it. Then it went to an architect. The architect drew up plans, then after that, we sent out a survey to campus," Wilson said.

That design, she said, was very well received.

"The original plan discussed involved building an outdoor gathering area directly in front of May Hall and connecting the small flag ‘island’. With the flow of traffic changing in front of May Hall to one-way, the committee felt it was best to leave the driving lanes alone and better utilize the outdoor space in front of May Hall and the library," Jilek said.

The plaza will now be located closer to the Stoxen Library and will include tables, chairs, benches, a pergola for shade and a fire pit centerpiece.

"We’re going to have our centennial theme incorporated into this awesome propane fire pit," Wilson said.

The committee made a list of suggested amenities for the plaza that includes a small projector to produce imagery on the concrete, metal bike rack, fountain, large projector for playing movies, heat lamps, charging station, WiFi and more.

"This list is done in priority order, so whatever they can fit within their budget, they’ll fit," she said.

Jilek said they had hoped to have the plaza completed in time for the university's centennial celebration, but the timing didn't allow for it to be completed last fall.

The new goal is to have it completed this fall.

"I just know they’re right in the middle of accepting bids for the project, so we should see some progress starting here in the next couple of weeks. Obviously, the sooner the better, but I think they’re hopes are for the plaza to be in this fall at some point. It’s not very likely that it will be done before school starts, but hopefully (we’ll) see it completed sometime this fall," she said.

Campus facilities workers have started prepping the ground for work on the plaza.