Sol Harris Day Architecture

With a goal of revitalizing Downtown Mount Vernon, the Ariel Foundation donated the former JCPenney Company building, constructed in 1958, to Mount Vernon Nazarene University. This gift offered an opportunity to provide much needed space for the Engineering Program that lacked a ‘real’ home. Previously occupying the old Home Ec. space, the goal for this move was to create more modern lab and classroom spaces that reflected the evolving needs of the engineering program. Makerspace labs were designed into the lower level to give the community access, inspiring interest in the STEM field.


  • Visioning
  • Estimating/Scheduling
  • Architecture
  • Interior Design
  • Construction Services

Street Presence

Downtown Mount Vernon is filled with a rich Victorian architectural style steeped in history. Visually preserving the story of the town required special attention to exterior details on this project. The JCPenney Building was built in 1958, replacing the original Victorian structure. This new façade’s design incorporates new brick and large windows as well as replacing the existing storefront windows. The outcome is a revitalized exterior that blends with the Victorian style of the surrounding buildings, breathing new life into the town and allowing it to adapt to the changing needs of the community.

We couldn’t be more pleased with the Nease Building, which houses our engineering program. The modern, industrialized style perfectly fits an engineering environment. There is ample space for the students not only to take classes but also to work on class projects and to study together. They love the white board walls!

Dr. LeeAnn Couts, Dean of the Engineering program

Building Organization

The existing 3-story building created a natural separation between the Engineering program and makerspace by housing the Engineering labs and classrooms in the basement, makerspace on the first floor, and study spaces on the second floor. The Knox Labs makerspace was purposefully placed at street level to make it easily accessible and inviting to the community. The private Engineering program spaces utilize secure access points to eliminate unnecessary community traffic.

Interior Concept

The existing building did not allow much, if any, natural light into the interior spaces, especially on the second floor.  Large windows were added to the upper level, making sure that the style blended with the existing downtown Victorian architectural elements.

Despite the limitation renovating an existing building can encounter, the designs created several opportunities for natural light to filter into the building. To accomplish this, the front portion of the building was kept open and free of floor-to-ceiling walls, allowing sunlight to penetrate further into the interior. Full height glass walls on the fronts of classrooms and offices were utilized further into the building to bring natural light in, reducing the need for artificial light sources.

With a variety of spaces offered throughout the building, material selection played a vital role in enhancing the well-being of users. Carpet was used in classrooms, study spaces and offices to reduce noise pollution. Due to the potential for spills, vinyl flooring was placed in the labs and makerspaces for ease of cleanup and maintenance. All areas incorporated bright pops of blues, greens, and oranges to bring life to the spaces.


  • Expanded downtown presence by renovating and repurposing an existing building for the Department of Engineering.
  • Partnered with Knox Labs to provide Makerspace that is accessible to the community.
  • Engineering spaces include classrooms, labs, project spaces, study and lounge areas, and faculty offices.

The engineering building is awesome, because it provides us engineering majors with a home, and it’s a place where we can create and imagine and bring our ideas to life!

MVNU Engineering Student

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