University Center Renovation Proposed

November 18, 1999

Mark Miester

Director of campus planning Henry Fry calls it one of the five most successful projects hes been associated with in 20 years on campus. Judging from the comments of others, Fry is not alone. The project in question is a study commissioned last semester by the Associated Student Body, the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Auxiliary Services to analyze usage of the University Center and make recommendations for its future.

A committee made up of Fry and University Center representatives worked closely with Minneapolis architect Vincent James to conduct a study of the UC. Committee members included Leland Bennett, director of the UC and campus recreation; Bill Canning, associate vice president of auxiliary services; Martha Sullivan, vice president of student affairs; John Klingman, professor of architecture; Don Gatzke, dean of architecture; and Ford Graham, president of the Associated Student Body. The report and James recommendations met with universal approval.

"It was one of the few committees that I've been on around the university in all my years here that really worked well together," says Bennett.

According to Fry, the report has been favorably reviewed by the Campus Planning Steering Committee and the Board of Administrators Committee on Physical Facilities and Campus Development. Funding for the estimated $14.3 million renovation of the UC is currently being explored, says Fry.

Among the major components of the plan are building a new, larger bookstore, adding a floor to the McAlister Drive side of the building and enclosing the open-air deck overlooking the UC quad. The study also proposes converting the Kendall Cram Room into a fixed-seating auditorium, adding large windows to the side of the building facing McAlister Drive and redesigning the main corridor of the UC to create better circulation patterns.

The renovations would represent the most extensive work done on the high-profile building since its completion in 1959. The study was unique in itself in that the funding sources were student government, student affairs and auxiliaries, notes Canning. The new bookstore would be built to the rear of Pocket Park in the area where the yacht, Nydia, currently resides.

According to Canning, Barnes & Noble hopes to add 5,000 additional square feet of retail space in a new bookstore, creating a mini-superstore with the library-like feel of the bookstore giant's Metairie location. The Kendall Cram Room would move from its current location into the new space created by enclosing the deck atop the UC. The move would free up the current Cram Room to be converted into a fixed-seating theater. You need two different types of facilities, says Bennett.

Also, it gives students a smaller theater if they want to do art films or something that doesnt draw as much as McAlister Auditorium. The main corridor of the UC would be widened at the Pocket Park entrance to create an atrium that would improve circulation patterns around the main stairs and elevator. The plan covers more than simply physical renovations. A major element of the study involves rezoning the UC.

While offices have been created wherever space was available, the plan calls for consolidating functions by level. The first level would be reserved for student affairs, services and organizations. The second level would be geared toward retail and food services. The third level would be dedicated to meeting rooms and conference space. And the new fourth level would house administrative offices. The feasibility of tearing down and rebuilding a university center was also studied, Fry says, but removal and reconstruction would cost an estimated $23 million.

And, Fry notes, thats not the only reason renovation is preferable to reconstruction. "In renovating the building, we would not have to find temporary relocation space of residents of the UC," he says. "That's a lot of people. So that makes renovating seem that much more attractive." (Inside Tulane, 3/15/99)

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000