DUC renovations underway

Brandy Warren

Let the demolition begin.

Orange construction fences have once again graced campus, this time encircling Downing University Center.

Two weeks ago, construction began on the $5 million first phase of the DUC renovation project to expand one-half of the building onto the existing patio and redecorate and expand the food services inside.

In the first phase, Western will enclose one-half of the existing covered patio this summer with a brick and glass facade to extend space in DUC and change the face of the building, Construction Manager Ed West said.

At the same time Aramark will reinvent Topper Cafe by installing the Fresh Food Company and redecorating the Food Court. They are providing new wallpaper, painting and flooring.

“You’re going to start seeing the visible signs of what we’re doing,” said Gene Tice, vice president for Student Affairs and campus services.

Right now crews are working on several aspects of the project. They are breaking ground to strengthen the foundation, getting ready to pour new foundation and taking out the ceilings on the plaster, third-floor patio ceiling. The process of putting in the extension for the third floor level has also started.

Work on the building’s foundation has already started, West said. Crews have started digging the footings for the exterior walls, and an area has been partitioned off for demolition.

Pillars will be constructed every 24 feet on the patio in order to support the walls that will be built, Auxiliary Services Director Rob Chrisler said.

From Big Red Way and Minton Hall, the DUC walkway will be enclosed with brick and windows on the first and second floors. The side of DUC facing the South Lawn will have high ceilings and lots of glass to create the feel of an atrium, West said.

The auxiliary and executive dining rooms inside DUC have been cleared out and crews have started taking the ceiling down, Chrisler said.

Chrisler said he doesn’t expect to see a lot of major changes before the semester is over.

“Outside of the dust and mayhem, I don’t think students will see much construction before school is out, but they’ll see a miracle when they return in the fall,” Chrisler said.

The interior work is scheduled to be completed before OAR begins on August 4, with the newly added patio expansion finished on August 18, West said.

E.H. Construction from Louisville was granted a contract with Western to renovate DUC’s exterior and provide electrical work and heating and cooling in the dining areas.

“We obviously have a small window of opportunity to do such a project, when the only time we have to take it down is in the summer and that’s a stretch with the amount of use that it gets,” West said. “But we were able to award this contract early and get a little bit done before school was out. And we’ve stretched about as far as we can.”

Chrisler said the project was scheduled this summer to capitalize on the low interest rates.

“We decided to take advantage of the economic situation, which may be terrible for finding a job but is terrific for getting a loan,” he said. “To finish phase two of the project, we must get a loan and interest rates haven’t been this low in 30 years. We’re just trying to get the most bang for the students’ bucks.”

Funds for the renovation project came from various sources. Aramark paid about $2 million for the food services renovation, which is a condition of their 15 year contract. The Auxiliary Services Reserve fund is providing $1.8 million from all Auxiliary Services operations including the bookstore, food services and vending machines, Chrisler said.

Auxiliary Services also received an $1.2 million loan for the Campus Reserve Fund. This loan was approved by the Board of Regents last May, Chrisler said, and will be paid back in two years.

A second phase of renovations is in the developmental stages. It would focus on the half of DUC nearest Bates Runner Hall. There are no definite plans except finishing the outside of the building to match the renovated half. Those renovations could begin as early as summer 2004.

BEGINITALReach Jessica Sasseen at [email protected]