Visitors and returning alumni may get a surprise when they go to the University of Washington beginning this summer. On July 1, the University of Washington’s Husky Union Building hangout and meeting destination spot, which welcomes about 6,400 people daily, will close its doors for a two-year renovation.
There will be no lunch dates at Subway, no more visits to Bagel Town, and nowhere for the major gatherings the building has long accommodated.
The Husky Union Building (HUB) was built in 1949 and has undergone several additions and renovations since. Its 260,000 square-foot structure in the center of campus houses many groups, such as the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW), the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, the Student Activities Office, and Fraternity and Sorority Life. Additionally, the HUB has a bike shop, bank branch, bookstore, gaming area, and the Husky Den, a food court of nine restaurants.
In 2005, student leaders approached staff with concerns about the current HUB building. Their problems were the outdated décor, the difficulty in locating rooms, inconvenient layout, limitations of meeting spaces, and the inadequate heating and ventilation system. After many town-hall meetings and information forums, plans to remodel the HUB were approved by the Board of Regents in July 2009.
According to Paul Zuchowski, the associate director of Student Activities and Union Facilities, the estimated project cost of the HUB is $82.7 million. Students will pay for most of the cost. Beginning in fall 2012, a $90 fee will be added to tuition costs each quarter. The fee will be in place for 30 years.
Karthika Appiah, a student involved in HUB R.A.T.S, a group created to inform students about the closure, is certain that the cost is worth it. "While the fee does seem like a hefty amount right now, I strongly feel that the paybacks will be more than beneficial in the future,” she said. “Though the current HUB is the heart of campus with its services, it does require remodeling, especially because of its age resulting in asbestos contamination. Also, the piecemeal construction of the HUB over a period of 30 years has resulted in several segregated divisions."
During the closure, most student groups will be housed in Condon Hall on south campus, while the bookstore will move to Odegaard Library. ASUW officer Dalia Amin thinks the HUB closure will make the coming year a bit more chaotic.
"A lot of students are shocked that the HUB is going away,” Amin said. "We're telling students to enjoy Odegaard and By George Cafe, so hopefully they can be new areas for students to hang out."
With regards to future gatherings, Amin is asking students to start planning. "Next fall when people need meeting spaces, they'll probably start freaking out," she said. "We're asking students to plan ahead now. Look to venues in south campus like the women's center or the IMA, places that people don't know about or don't use. It's (going to be) scattered around for a while."
As for working in Condon, Amin said ASUW and other student groups are going to have to get creative. Rooms in Condon are smaller and its location on the edge of campus will make it harder to plan events that usually take place at the HUB, such as the annual HUB crawl. On the up side, Amin said it will give groups the chance to work more closely with nearby residence halls and the Ethnic Cultural Center.
Debbie Proctor, an administrator with UW's Housing and Food Services (HFS), is working to make the loss of the Husky Den easier on students and those wanting to eat. The Den's Subway will be moving to the By George Café in mid-July and Proctor said HFS is trying to open a Pagliacci's Pizza in dining hall 1101. Additionally, the café in Suzzallo Library will be extended to include a mini-market.
"Of course it's going to be a challenge for those that have experienced the Husky Den and (who will be) with us for the next two or three years," Proctor said, "but the new students coming in who haven't experienced it won't know the difference."
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