Campus Construction

Mapping out the new University Center

After more than seven years of planning and a year and a half of construction, the New University Center is open for business this month.

From the design process down to the funding, the New UC was primarily a student-fueled project, replacing the original building, which was torn down in 2012 because of its poor physical condition as well as a need for a larger space to accommodate a student population that has nearly doubled since the building opened in 1967.

Since 2007, members from the Student Government Association and other students have been strong advocates for the project, said Keith Kowalka, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

“So when we … went to a construction company and looked at chair options or carpet options or wall color options … students were at the table when the staff and the administration drew it together. So it was a really student-centered project. Students really had a hand in every nook and cranny, from the chairs to the floors to the fixtures to the lighting to the roof fabric of the building.”

In May 2011, a $135 UC fee was approved by SGA for the fall and spring semesters of that year in order to pay for the $80-million building. A $67.50 fee was added to the summer semester, and the rest of the funding came through food and bookstore contracts.

“I think this is the best student union building in the country — definitely a Tier One facility for our students,” said SGA President Cedric Bandoh.

“It really brings that living room feel back to the campus, because with the UC under construction and with the way the old UC used to be, you probably didn’t have that place on campus to just go and hang out, but now you do; now it’s back with the opening of Phase 1.”

The New UC now serves as an effective hub for student involvement, from grabbing lunch to attending a meeting or concert.

The Daily Cougar, Student Video Network and Coog Radio came together in the fall to form the Center for Student Media, united under one space for better visibility and communication among the organizations and UH students. Coog Radio, previously an online-only radio station, now plays for students at the lounge spaces outside CSM.

SGA also has new senate chambers with an electronic voting system and a larger floor space for students to sit in on meetings.

“We’re just excited to have a chamber option for the campus, because even though it’s the SGA senate chamber, actually any group can reserve it through the Event Services Office when we’re not using it, which is most of the time,” Bandoh said.

Various fee-funded student organizations — such as the Veterans’ Services Office, LGBT Resource Center, International Student and Scholar Services Office, Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, Center for Student Involvement and the Women’s Resource Center — moved to the New UC, where they are now housed in larger offices with more room for meetings and events.

Other student organizations have moved to a carrel space where they can host meetings, work and meet with other student organizations.

“We absolutely love (the new space),” said Sara Malani, assistant director of the Metropolitan Volunteer Program.

“We have so much more space to work than we did in our old offices, where we had to share with (Student Program Board) and (the Council of Ethnic Organizations.) That was great for collaborating — they were right there — but it’s great to have enough space and to have enough room for our entire board to work, so I think it’ll allow us to get a lot more work done and to get more done effectively.”

Dining Services presented a new food court with Chik-fil-A Express, Panda Express, McDonald’s and Starbucks, presenting more food options for students on campus.  The New UC also boasts a 3,000 square foot theater, ballrooms, meeting areas and a new graphic design studio called Creation Station. The UC Games Room, originally slated to open next year, will open early with new bowling lanes and red-felted pool tables.

During the course of the month, various UC services will be holding open houses, such as Barnes and Noble on Jan. 28 and the Games Room on Jan. 30.

Phase 2 — consisting of the opening of the UH and Houston history site, the Legacy Lounge and new food options such as Freshii, Cougar Bite and Shasta’s — will be completed in January 2015.

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  • Where do large numbers of people sit and feel comfortable? (and that’s not sitting in a college-themed fast food court I assure you) Does this place for students generate a warm and safe feeling? Oops : ( You missed some important inputs again. Architecture fits with UH and is more of same with same feeling and reality lacking per above. Spend more money and retrofit another building and have me lead the project PM start to finish.

  • An absolute first class facility with all due respect to the poser with the first comment. Students and athletes who visit our campus cannot say enough great things about our facilities, dorms and atmosphere on the campus. Way to go UH and students for stepping up. Very few Universities offer places like the Sat and UC and rec center for students to congregate

  • I’m really glad to see that the effort and the money being spent on campus improvement projects are finally taking shape. It is a great facility. As students right now, most of what we have gotten to see so far is increasing fee bills, and buildings under construction. It is nice to now have the facilities really reflect that “tier one” status. Now, If we can only keep them looking as nice as they are now.

  • Based on what I’ve seen so far, I love it! I went to the pre-opening “sneak peek” (sent out to all UH residents, a nice living on-campus perk) and I am very impressed with what they’ve accomplished. I was somewhat worried based on initial renders I saw, or some other expectations, that it would be reshuffling walls and a simple bland paint job or refinished floors. But no, they really are retransforming the entire space inside out. It feels really brand new, for a renovated area.

    The New UC website has lots of information on the project thankfully, and WHR (who also did the awesome new Stadium Parking Garage) and WTW have both done a superb renovation for Phase 1.

    The website doesn’t have anything that points to any new sustainability aspects of the project though, but I do notice the restrooms appear to use ultra-low water faucets and air dryers, so that’s nice as there’s water efficiency and waste-prevention. I also noticed some plans noting MGC Inc. having been cleared as Architectural Woodwork Institute “Quality Woodwork” certified, and a U.S. Green Building Council member (though un-cleared for being FSC certified), so there’s some hope.

    Anyway, regarding the article, I think the CSM was a smart decision to unite them together for visibility reasons. Though I wonder what the DC’s old offices at the UC Satellite will be used for. It’s nice to see the SGA share their senate chambers to maximize its use, and the other orgs/offices getting new/bigger spaces. Bit disappointed there isn’t more regional type restaurants serving the UC (Whataburger, James Coney Island, or anything more regional), but they’re not bad. Super excited to see Phase 2 finished as well.

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