UC 2010 receives student approval

The UC 2010 Initiative received approval from the Student Government Association Sept. 30, leaving only two final approvals pending before the design and construction process begin.’

The UC 2010 Initiative is a proposed $100 million renovation of the University Center, which includes more dining options, additional study and lounge space, more retail space, a new student organization center, additional meeting and event space, outdoor lounge areas and an amphitheatre, as well as secure 24-hour access to study spaces.’

Increased visibility for student activities is the No. 1 benefit cited by UC 2010 committee leaders.

‘The thing that excites me the most is that Campus Activities won’t be stuck in the basement,’ chemistry professor Simon Bott said.’

Former SGA President and UC 2010 Co-chair Sam Dike echoed that sentiment.’

‘Organizations on campus are going to have a much more exciting environment in which to hold their meetings,’ Dike said. ‘

‘They should look forward to having organization space for their groups, places to commune with their fellow students, and bringing them out of the underground and to the forefront of the university setting.”

UC 2010 intends to make the Campus Activities Center more accessible’ and spur student involvement.’

‘Some of our seniors still don’t know where campus activities are located,’ UC 2010 Co-chair Nicole Sopko said. ‘

Sopko believes the main benefit of a transformed UC is ‘moving students from the basement to the second floor and having a real campus activity center where people know where it is.”

In addition to increased visibility, the new UC should lend itself to communicating UH themes and spirit.’

‘All other UCs we visited had school spirit and ours doesn’t,’ Sopko said. ‘You don’t see red and white everywhere.’ You don’t see UH everywhere.’ This is all about our school.’

Funding for the UC renovation will come from student fees, which will increase beginning Fall 2010, in $25 increments each semester until reaching the new $150 cap put in place by the Texas Legislature via H.B. 2961.’

‘What students voted for was to increase the UC fee ceiling,’ Dike said. ‘Students voted to increase it to $160, but it ultimately passed in the legislature at a $150 cap.”

The fee increase, although slated to remain at the increased rate for some time, is not permanent.’

‘The bill passed in the legislature specifies the (increased) fee will only be charged until the building bonds are paid off,’ Dike said. ‘Then it reverts back to the $35 per semester that it originally was.’

The building bonds are 30-year bonds.’

The burden a fee increase places on students and the current state of the economy were factored into the decision to increase student fees, according to Sopko. ‘

This is one of the reasons student fees are being increased gradually each year.

The current UC master plan was developed by Holzman Moss Architecture, and includes multiple concepts.

‘ Once an architectural firm is selected for the design and construction phase, they will work to finalize one of these concepts and generate construction documents.’

The master plan options include various scenarios for the campus bookstore, including one that would give it significantly more space. ‘

In this scenario, student fees would fund the building shell, but Barnes and Noble would be responsible for paying for their interior build-out, according to Dike.’

‘This is a for-profit company; we should not subsidize them,’ Dike said.’

As the building plans move forward and different design concepts are fleshed out, student involvement will remain at the forefront.’

‘Students will be involved all the way up to putting the first brick in place,’ Bott said.’

Students will be able to participate in focus groups, town hall meetings and meetings with the transformation committee, as well as approve the final design concept.’ ‘

‘I’m a big proponent of getting as many ideas as possible,’ Dike said. ‘Students are the lifeblood of this building.”

The next step in the process is to receive final approval from the UH administration, which committee members hope to accomplish within the next two weeks.’

The initiative will go before the Board of Regents at their Nov. 11 meeting. If approved, solicitation of architectural firms may begin immediately. ‘

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