New student center on schedule

The new $75-million new University Center/Academic Center is currently 40 percent completed and is on track to open at the end of August, according to University officials.

Brij Anand, vice president of facilities, said that while there is no area in which the construction team is behind schedule as of right now, “at any given time, something could get delayed, which could have an impact on the schedule.”

However, “We have not seen anything of that nature as of yet,” he explained. “The contractor has not informed us of any such issue and we are still gunning for an August completion.”

This three-story-high building, which will also have a basement and a sub-basement, is set to hold 14 classrooms, a central lounge area for students, a coffee house café, a game lounge, new offices for student organizations and a dining hall.

According to Ibi Yolas, executive director of Design and Construction, the construction team has recently been “putting up the bricks, waterproofing, insulating the building, the mechanical systems are going up and we’re working on the furniture layout.

“We’re going at this full force,” she said.
Anand, Yolas and other members of Design and Construction meet with the contractor, architect and other designers from Sciame, the construction company, every week to discuss the progress of the building. The meetings take place every Thursday at 8 a.m.

“These meetings are designed to look at the schedule, any potential issues and to come up with resolutions,” said Anand. “Based on these meetings we have been able to make sure that any issues that need to be addressed, modified or changed are carried forward to the team in the field.”

Anand explained that having weekly meetings allows for an effective form of communication.

“Normally when we do a project like this, if there was an issue, it would be written down on a piece of paper, it goes back and forth and it’s two, three or four weeks until something is done,” he said. “We have changed the process with the idea of keeping things on schedule, so we all get together on Thursdays and we find out what it is that we need to get done or need to change and then after the 8 a.m., there is another meeting held among the contractors to based on the discussion held in the previous meeting and they figure out how to go about resolving any issues.”

Anand mentioned that Aug. will be used to run tests throughout the building in order to ensure a smooth transition.

“We haven’t quite worked out the logistics [of moving everyone into the new UC] quite yet but it seems that it will take about a month to test everything in the building,” he said.

Yolas also said that no classes are going to be scheduled in the new classrooms next semester.

“We couldn’t afford to schedule all the classrooms and in the event something goes wrong then we would have major problems on our hands,” she said.

Anand said he has high hopes for the new UC/AC.

“The focus of the building is to really give the students, commuters as well as residents, a place where they are able to engage among each other, have a learning experience in the academic side of the building and it will be a building that will have a full venue of possibilities and events that can be held there with the prime focus of promoting the student learning experience and engagement enhancements,” he said. Yolas shared similar thoughts.

“I hope this will be the building that will serve as sort of a ‘home turf’ for all students,” she said. “This will be the social interaction center of the campus and it will be a place that students can truly call their own.” There are a few smaller construction projects planned on campus as well.”After the UC, we plan to redo the infrastructure of St. John Hall, Bent Hall and the Humanities Center on the second floor of the library,” said Anand.

In addition, he mentioned that the area between the new UC/AC and St. Augustine Hall will be turned into a grove with lawns and additional trees.

“The goal is to have that portion of the campus to look as appealing and inviting and green as the great lawn,” he said.
According to Yolas, the roads from the UC/AC will be turned into a plaza. She also said parking will be limited in this area.
While some pieces are set to be in place by this Aug./Sept., the rest is set to be done by the summer/fall of 2010, said Anand.

“We want to really have portions of the campus, like campuses across the country, that are more like pedestrian plazas,” she said. “We are pushing the parking to the outside of the campus and trying to make the core part of the campus more pedestrian.”