University Center Renovations to Boost Ambience of Facility


University Center Renovations


Sept. 17, 2004 – Remodeling work currently is under way on both exterior and interior areas of the University Center that will provide more student-friendly areas in the student union facility at the corner of Henderson and Normal.

Tom Hadler, Facilities Management project manager for the exterior work on the north side of the building, said, “our goal is to open up the front and make it more welcoming.”

The stone wall on the north side of the building around the plaza area, near the main entrance, is being removed. Stairs will be built in its place along with two planters separating sections of stairs, Hadler said. The improvements will update the exterior look of the building constructed in 1975.

“We think it’s a very good project,” Hadler said. “The removal of the wall is something we’ve talked about for many years. We hope the improvements will create more of a social, meeting place and a larger area for students to gather. We look forward to completing it.”

A “bistro” area with umbrella tables will be created outside on the northeast corner of the patio area along Normal, and a new canopy will be installed above windows and doors already located off the current patio area to the east of the main entrance. This will then become a new outside entrance to Chartwells’ new C-Store, a convenience-type store, located in the former Club area in the northeast corner on the third floor of the University Center.

Currently, customers enter the C-Store from inside the University Center, on the third floor, near the entrance to the Café Court. When the work is completed, customers will be able to enter the store from both inside the University Center and outside on the north side, just east of the main entrance.

Hadler said work on the north side entrance area to the University Center is expected to be completed by the end of November.

“We want to upgrade the overall quality of the space,” he said.

Chartwells Educational Dining Services hired Woolpert LLC of St. Louis as the architect for the exterior work on the building and Artisan Contracting as the contractor. Total cost of the exterior work is $220,000. Cost of developing the C-Store was $20,000. C-Store

The 2,500-square-foot C-Store opened at the start of all semester classes and offers a variety of selections including, household items toiletries, health and beauty products, grocery items, microwaveable foods, salty snacks, sweet treats and more. Additionally, Toni’s Flowers and Southeast Bookstore have items available in the C-Store for cash only purchases.

“One of the most exciting changes for our students this year is the addition of the convenience store operated by Chartwells in the University Club area,” said Debbie Below, Southeast director of enrollment management. “Students are able to use their flex dollars through their meal plan to purchase convenient and frozen foods, drinks and personal care items in the store.”

In addition to using Flex Dollars, students can make purchases at the C-Store using Capaha Cash, cash and check. Plans call for accepting student charges and debit credit in the near future. Also, down the road, Chartwells plans on developing the interior of the store with a “higher end” look, Hadler said.

Second Floor Renovations

While work progresses on the outside of the facility, Facilities Management staff and contractors also are hard at work on renovations to the interior of the facility. Interior work is planned in three phases with the first phase focused on creating a Student Organization Complex on the second floor of the facility.

To ready for the first phase, Textbook Services was relocated last school year from the second floor of the University Center to the first floor of Kent Library. In addition, the second floor University Center computer lab was vacated.Now, that space is being remodeled and divided into an open, student-friendly office space that will house Student Government, Greek Council, Student Activities Council, Greek and other student organizations. The area also will feature a computer bar – a long counter, where laptop computers with wireless connections may be used — and conference room, and has a modern look and feel to it. The area has been painted and metal studs are in place that are beginning to define office space. Lighting, heating and cooling is being installed and sheet rock will be going up in the near future.

A new door has been cut that will allow entry directly into the University Center second floor Student Organizations Complex from the Normal Street side of the building, west of the main entrance, said Neil Zlokovich, Facilities Management project manager. A second floor entrance from Normal currently exists, but opens into a stairwell area. Zlokovich says the new entrance will take students and visitors directly into the new area being created.

Also under the first phase of the project, the former second floor computer lab is being converted into a meeting room and the third floor student lounge area will be extended into the third floor Program Lounge area. The new meeting room being designed in the former second floor computer lab will accommodate meetings previously held in the Program Lounge, Zlokovich said.

The first phase of work is expected to be completed in mid-November when student organizations begin moving into their new spaces. The second phase will begin shortly thereafter.

Under the second phase, Career Services will be relocated to the former second floor Student Government area, after Student Government moves to the new Student Organization Complex. Under the third phase of the project, the University Center administrative offices currently located on the fourth floor will be relocated to the then vacated Career Services space on the second floor.

Minority Student Programs, including the McNair Scholars program office, will then relocate from the third floor of the University Center to the fourth floor in the area that now houses the Center’s administrative offices. This configuration will place Minority Student Programs, the McNair Scholar program and the Dean of Students Office within close proximity to each other on the fourth floor of the building.

Architectural work on the second floor is being done by Southeast’s Facilities Management. HVAC and mechanical work is being done by Associated Sheet Metal. Total cost of the interior work is $880,000.

In October 2002, the University Center paid the last portion of its obligation for 1993 housing bonds, said Dr. Dennis Holt, vice president for administration and enrollment management. The $70,000 per year base funding used to service this debt is being used to fund the project via an internal loan from the fund balance.

History of the Project

When the remodeling project was presented to the University’s Board of Regents in February, Holt told the Board the University Center is at the heart of campus life. It is a place where students, faculty and staff gather together for committee meetings, campus and community events, dining, shopping at Southeast Bookstore and informal conversation. The University Center also is home for the offices of the Student Government Association and the Student Activities Council, as well as the offices of the Dean of Students, student judicial affairs and Student Support Services, including Minority Student Programs and the Learning Enrichment Center, he said.

“The success of Skylight Terrace –a new, modern dining area in the University Center– demonstrates the potential of the University Center to be a vital destination of choice for students, the campus and the community,” Holt has said. “University centers are a point of sale for campus visits by prospective students, and it is for this reason that many colleges and universities are investing in construction or renovation of their campus centers.”

A planning committee of students, faculty and staff representatives was formed to make recommendations on how best to build on the success of the Skylight Terrace project with the aim of increasing the University Center’s appeal to students, improving student services, providing better facilities for more student organizations, and refreshing the Center’s general appearance.

Last fall, targeted student forums and open campus forums were held to gather feedback on key concepts and suggestions from students and staff, Holt said. Based on that feedback, a final proposal was developed and shared with students in early 2004 and approved by the Board of Regents in late February.