Space issues arise in the wake of renovations announcement


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Christine Lee, Senior News Editor

Plans to renovate the University Center on Main Street its neighbor at 141 S. Main St. bring up additional issues regarding space on campus.

Over Spring Break on March 5, the university announced its intentions to move the entire Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership into UCOM and to purchase and renovate the building next to it at 141 S. Main St., formerly Bartikowsky Jewelers.

Vice President of Finance and General Counsel Loren Prescott said the business school will take up the entirety of UCOM with the exception of Colonel Gambini’s Café, the recreation center and information technology offices. Prescott explained that the IT department will not move out due to their infrastructure in the building.

Prescott is not entirely clear on the use of the parking lot that has been acquired along with the building at 141 S. Main St., however he does know it will be accessible for most of campus.

“It will be similar to many of the other lots on campus that allow faculty, staff, commuter students and anybody with a parking pass to park there,” Prescott said. “I think that’s most likely, but we haven’t made a final decision on it yet.”

He said the use of the parking lot depends on the needs of campus and discussions on its use will involve Public Safety and Student Affairs.

Once the Sidhu School begins moving into UCOM, the building at 141 S. Main St. is slated to house administrative offices currently housed in UCOM, including student services, finance and accounting offices and human resources. Prescott said an exact process hasn’t been determined for deciding the building’s permanent use but will include a detailed evaluation of the space needs of the academic and administrative candidates that may suitable candidates to benefit from being in the location.

Prescott said there are some academic programs that are better candidates than others as their components are located in multiple buildings across campus, most notably the Communication Studies department and the School of Education.

“They’re in more than one building and we understand that bringing all of the faculty and all of the students together in one space is beneficial,” he said.

Prescott explained that using the building for administrative purposes allows the university to get to know the space and the nature of the building, allowing them to evaluate how well the building will serve the needs of a particular program.

The process would involve identifying the programs and having detailed discussions with faculty, staff and students involved in the programs, known as the programming phase in architecture.

“They really come to understand the needs that the users of the space have for the space so there will be a lot of interviews with faculty and staff and students,” Prescott said.

Prescott explained this process was employed during the planning of the Cohen Science Center. The administrative use of 141 S. Main St. is not being completely ruled out as they already have to move out of UCOM.

“It’s possible that the administrative functions that will move in there, the ones in UCOM now, it’s possible they’ll stay there,” he said. “We moved them out in order to move another program in that we’re going to have to find homes for them and we’ll have to do programming for them.”

Prescott said there have been no final plans made for the spaces being vacated by the business school in Breiseth and Weckesser Halls but the same plan for determining the long-term use of 141 S. Main St. will be utilized for those spaces as well.

“We’ve got some programs that we know need new space and we have some programs that we know need to be pulled together,” he said.

Some of the plans include putting all of the School of Education in Breiseth Hall and relocating the English as a Second Language Program located in Hollenback Hall, as that building does not fit the academic needs of that program well.

“Hollenback was in years past was used as a residence hall and really we think is best suited as an office building but it’s not an academic building,” he said. “It doesn’t give the students in that program good academic space, it doesn’t give the instructors good office space.”

However, since there hasn’t been a careful evaluation of the program’s space needs, Prescott said he isn’t certain where the ESL program will be relocated to. If the program were to move out of Hollenback, its future use will depend on finding an administrative function on campus that provides a service to the campus but is mostly a collection of various offices for those in that unit. The building’s location also plays a role in deciding its future use.

“What department that would be most useful for I don’t know yet because we have to look at the use of those departments,” he said. “If we decide that there’s a particular administrative unit that really needs to be in the center of campus for convenience for all people involved, then Hollenback might be a good choice for them.”

Hollenback’s future use would also depend on it being handicap-accessible, meaning handicap-accessibility would need to be invested in or putting a department in there that doesn’t rely on handicap accessibility, which Prescott said would be hard because all administrative units need to be handicap-accessible.

President Patrick Leahy said the moving of the Sidhu School to UCOM is most practical for the campus because it opens up lots of space, including space for a variety of uses.

“We’re opening up space on the center part of campus, which we want to make available for other academic purposes,” Leahy said. “Business is now in three different locations here in the heart of campus, they’re going to be consolidated so they’re going to be emptying out space, which we hope some of which we could turn into academic space, some of which might lend itself more to office space.”

Leahy said he hopes that by having the business school re-located to UCOM and the acquisition of 141 S. Main St. people will start to think of campus as encompassing more of the downtown area.

“I want us on this campus to re-imagine what constitutes our campus and I want it to expand to include more and more of the downtown area,” Leahy said. “I think that would be a very positive thing because I think we would then feel some responsibility for the downtown more than we do now.”