GLOUCESTER TWP. Camden County College held a ceremony Wednesday morning marking the start of work on its Taft Hall conversion project, the final phase of a $83 million Blackwood Campus Transformation Project begun in 2005.

The $10 million Taft Hall renovation will add 5,190 square feet to the current 39,558-square-foot space. Taft was a science building until January, when the Kevin G. Halpern Hall for Science and Health Education opened. Work has begun to gut Taft Hall, which will become an administrative center for student services.

First-floor space will be used for classrooms for the Division of Transitional Studies. A new welcome center on the second floor will serve as a central point for student services to current and former students. Paying bills, exploring financial aid options, or seeking academic advising all will be handled from one place, a spokeswoman said. Those services currently are scattered around campus buildings.

When the project is complete, the business offices will be on the second floor of Taft Hall. The third floor will house academic advising, financial aid offices, student employment, and offices for disability, veterans', and international student services.

Construction has begun on the Taft Hall interior. The expansion and renovation are projected to be complete for next year's fall semester.

The project is the third and final phase of the Blackwood Campus Transformation Project, which began as a campuswide effort to renovate and modernize buildings, some of which predated the school, begun in 1967. Previous phases included renovation of Madison Hall, the busiest classroom building on campus; new signs, and transformation of the president's house, Holly Run Manor, into a park.

"When you have a commuter campus, you have the student population being more transient in their daily lives," said Susan Coulby, a college spokeswoman. "By giving them these spaces, it feels more attractive to them, and maybe they'll study here, maybe they'll make study groups here, work on things here versus coming and going." - Jonathan Lai