HAVERHILL — Students at Northern Essex Community College say the biggest things they've noticed about the $18 million renovation to the Spurk Building on the college's Haverhill campus include the quality and coolness of the air in classrooms, how comfortable the new classrooms chairs are, and how nice it is to have amenities such as water bottle refill stations.

"I have most of my classes in this building and I like it," said student Carl Squatrito, 18, of Methuen. "I like the new entryways, the bathrooms are really nice and there are lots of places on the second floor to study. I like it all."

Student Patrick McCarty, 20, of Methuen, said the new bottle refill stations will save him from having to purchase bottled water.

"They got rid of the building's old feel," noted McCarty. "Classroom chairs are much more comfortable and the ventilation is much better. It's not as humid or stuffy in the classrooms as it was, and that makes a big difference as you can focus better."

The college celebrated the official reopening of the Spurk Building on Tuesday, with a program followed by a ribbon cutting and tours of the building.

Students have been using the building since the recent start of the fall semester.

"It's definitely more appealing now and they did make it look prettier," said student Ashley Caruso, 22, of Haverhill. "It's cold in the classrooms, which is very good for the summer, and the bathrooms are beautiful."

From new windows, flooring and audiovisual equipment in the classrooms to a new HVAC system, new restrooms and accessibility upgrades for the entire building, the Spurk Building is now an optimal spot to take — and teach — classes, college officials said.

The busiest building on NECC's Haverhill campus, has been closed for a year for the $18 million renovation project.

Speakers included James Peyser, secretary of education; Michael Heffernan, secretary of administration and finance; State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives; Lane Glenn, NECC president; and Bill Heineman, NECC vice president of academic and student affairs.

During a gathering in the completely remodeled Lecture Hall A, Glenn told a crowd of more than 100 guests that about 65 percent of classes on the Haverhill campus are taught in the Spurk Building, which he referred to as the "hub" of the campus.

"It's where our students congregate and socialize, and a place that members of the community frequently visit for performances and lectures," Glenn said.

He noted that at close to a half century old, the Spurk Building is almost like new again.

"What has been accomplished will dramatically improve the experience for our students, our faculty, and our staff," Glenn said.

Glenn noted that while renovations were taking place, students had to be shifted to other buildings on the campus.

"It was difficult taking such a vibrant, busy building off-line for over a year, but after today, I am confident you will agree that the inconvenience was well worth it," he said.

State Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives congratulated the college on its completion of the renovations, and told the crowd that Northern Essex Community College is part of the solution to combating the opioid crisis.

She noted that NECC started a police academy to train the next generation of first responders, and that NECC is also training the next generation of medical leadership.

"I posit that if we make strategic investments across the commonwealth, and replicate the success of the Spurk Building renovation, it will in fact pay back dividends in the back end," O'Connor Ives said.

The Spurk Building was constructed in 1971 as part of the college’s first permanent campus. In the early 1990s, it was named in memory of Dr. John Spurk, formerly of Haverhill, a professor of history and government at Northern Essex for 24 years until his retirement in 1991, shortly before his death.

Dr. Spurk's brother, Steven Spurk, along with Dr. Spurk's son, John Spurk, and his son, Jonathan Spurk, attended the ribbon cutting as well.

"My dad would have loved the fact that they redid the building for the benefit of students," John Spurk said. "Teaching was his passion."

Dr. John Spurk wrote the first 25 years of the college’s history, until 1986, and Mary Wilson, dean emeritus, has since added an update, carrying the college through the present day, college officials said.

The 89,000-square-foot building, which is almost 50 years old, has been closed for a year, undergoing renovations funded by a 2008 capital bond and deferred maintenance funding from the state’s Division of Capital Asset and Management and Maintenance (DCAMM).

In addition to classrooms and faculty offices, the Spurk Building is home to centers created to support students, such as the Career Center, the Business & Accounting Academic Center, the Academic Coaching Center, the Reading and Writing Center; and Honors Lounge; gathering and performance spaces, including Lecture Hall A and the Chester Hawrylciw Theater; and spaces designed for faculty and staff innovation, such as the Professional Development Center and the Center for Instructional Technology.

Spurk Building renovations:

New heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Code-compliant and fully accessible restrooms, with new plumbing, fixtures, accessories, finishings, and lighting.

All new exterior and interior windows.

New entryways with double sets of doors to prevent weather intrusion.

New and renovated entrance ramps, proper door clearance, extension of the accessible parking lot toward the building, new chairs, wheelchair spots, and companion seats for Lecture Hall A and the Chester W. Hawrylciw Theater.

Additional fire protection includes a sprinkler room and stairwell improvements like the enclosure of the central stairwell.

New flooring in the classrooms and faculty/staff offices and new audiovisual equipment in classrooms.

New furniture in faculty/staff offices, some new furniture throughout the building, and a new faculty lounge.

Lecture Hall A and the Chester W. Hawrylciw Theater feature new seating, carpeting, ADA accessible entrances and more.

New data network hardware supports data, wireless, voice, and CCTV video infrastructure.