University of Washington/Mary Levin
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 Their problems were the outdated décor, the difficulty in locating rooms, inconvenient layout, limitations of meeting spaces, and the inadequate heating and ventilation system.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."
AJ Fraiman, a UW junior, said the Den closure will be a definite inconvenience. "I like to go into the HUB and eat and relax between classes when there's not enough time to go home,: he said, jokingly adding: "I'll find some place else or just skip class."
Proctor said HFS will hold an open house this month to try to encourage students to visit other campus dining halls. "We're going to try and advertise as much as possible," she said.
Officials estimate that about 120 student jobs currently located in the HUB will be cut during the renovation, but staff members hope the loss won't have a big impact.
"We have kept our student employees informed of the process as we have gone along with the project," said Zuchowski. "This has been an ongoing one as we generally hire a number of students each quarter and everyone has known about the pending change in our operations."
However, Proctor said students who are working this spring and want to continue working in the fall will likely get incorporated into another department. She said she's about 95 percent sure that the students will be able to find jobs due to the large turnover in positions.
When the HUB reopens in 2012, student club spaces are expected to be better organized and connected. Planners say meeting rooms will have built-in projectors, screens, and speakers, and ballrooms will receive natural daylight and have pre-function areas for major events.
Building materials will be green and a new atrium will span almost the entire first floor. A better ventilation system will be in place and students will see different food options, such as a Freshens smoothie stand.
"I feel this will make the HUB more than just a place to eat in the middle of campus," Appiah said. "It is unfortunate that a large majority of UW students are unaware of the various services of the HUB and only visit it for its convenient availability of a food and lounging area during the day. The new HUB is definitely going to change students' perceptions on what the HUB can offer."
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