Student center renovations move along

By Jessie Kern

DeKALB — The Holmes Student Center renovation is on track with its projected timeline and is anticipated to be completed by fall 2019.

The Holmes Student Center opened its doors in 1962 and has seen little alterations to the structure since then. The largest focus of the current renovation project is on the main floor of the building. Plans are also underway to bring new food venues to the building.

“So where we stand right now, our consultants are getting close to completing the construction documents for bidding,” said Belinda Roller, Division of Administration and Finance architect. “So they’re preparing the drawings and specifications that will be issued sometime in June.”

Roller said those involved with the project are finishing up the contracts for the abatement contractor, who will monitor the air and safely remove materials containing asbestos, like some of the tile, mastic and plaster. Roller also said there were tests done to locate materials containing asbestos, and the abatement process helps avoid some of the potential bumps during construction.

“With the fact that will begin, essentially in July, the goal is that once the end of the spring semester arrives, we will take basically from middle of May through to the end of June to get all of the areas cleared out and ready for construction to begin,” Roller said.

Roller said a lot of work will go into updating the building systems, like mechanical, electrical and plumbing, because a lot of the systems are original to the building. Roller also said in the budget planning they considered building systems as necessary updates to keep the building up-to-date.

Ian Crone, director of the Holmes Student Center, said alternate items would be things like a skylight and modern decor that would be nice for the new atmosphere of the Holmes Student Center but aren’t crucial to the renovations.

Crone said different areas of the student center will be shut down, but the main and second floors will be accessible for students to use.

“I think we’re sort of at the point where things will soon accelerate in some respects, or more things will become apparent to the public, because it seems we’ve been moving along on our timeline,” Crone said. “But a lot of what we’ve been focused on are decision-making, planning and that type of thing.”

One of the larger moves, relocating the OneCard office to the Founders Memorial Library, will require the service to close for a day, Roller said. She said there is potential for the office to be relocated to the Bursar’s office during the move.

“We tried to pick a time where it was least busy and then have alternate arrangements for that short downtime to try and make it as seamless as possible,” Roller said.

Roller said construction fencing will go up around the student center from the MLK Common’s side up to Carroll Avenue toward the end of September or early October to reduce foot traffic.

Crone said project coordinators have been in contact with the Student Association about temporarily rerouting the buses from the turnaround during construction to Normal Road for safety reasons.

“That area will be accessible, but we don’t want for a lot of students to be moving around in an area so adjacent to where trucks will be coming and going,” Crone said.

Construction Plan

Students can anticipate new food venues, as well as updates to the Huskies Den and bookstore.

To accommodate the closure of the bookstore, a temporary one will be available on the main floor where books and spirit apparel will be available, Crone said. However, Crone didn’t specify when the Huskies Den and bookstore would be closed.

Roller said she is most excited for the new glass entryway at the south entrance, where students will be able to sit by a new fireplace and look out at the MLK Commons.

“The goal is to create the ‘living room’ for students, and I think that’s what we’re doing,” Roller said.

The renovations include the relocation of the Campus Activities Board, Student Association and Student Involvement Leadership Development offices from the Campus Life Building to the Holmes Student Center.

“Now they’re kind of behind closed doors, whereas here, just passing by, you’ll be able to see everything that’s going on,” Roller said.

Crone said the focus is on how to make the space attractive and comfortable while also representing what it means to be a Huskie, which is why project developers have been working with SA, CAB and other organizations to incorporate student voices into the construction process.

“Whenever I walk around the HSC, and especially on that floor, I think about how exciting it’s going to be to have an inviting well-lit space for students to congregate,” Crone said. “A place that they can easily pass through and want to remain in.”

Food venue updates

Roller said the College Grind will remain closed from mid-May until the end of June, but Coffee and Bagels — which serves Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels products — opened April 9 in the Founders Memorial Library basement, which was an important first step before closing additional venues.

Dan Koenen, executive director of Campus Dining, said a couple of years ago students were surveyed on the types of food venues they’d like to see on campus.

“We used those survey results to kind of categorize different brands and their offers, and then we kind of vetted them through whether they’d be willing to franchise to a college [and] how well the brand is recognized,” Koenen said.

Roller said contracts for new food venues are being worked on, which will bring two franchises, one coffee and the other being food, a convenience store and the inhouse concept for what is being referred to as the Huskie Grill.

Koenen said the “Huskie Grill” is not an official name yet, and there may be a contest for students to name the grill.

“It started with the surveys of students and student input, and then we tried to figure out what was the mix we wanted based off of the student input, and then how well the different brands will work in that mix,” Koenen said.

The option to serve alcohol is still under discussion, but Koenen said he’s almost positive it will begin to be served within the next two years.

“As we sit here now it is my understanding that we still plan on serving the beer and wine,” Koenen said. “With that said, things change, so would I expect to be serving beer and wine when HSC opens a year and a half from now, yes.”

With the structural changes through renovations, the Huskie Grill will be connected to the Huskies Den by a new staircase and elevator, and the grill will overlook the Huskies Den.

From the dining perspective, meal plans are undergoing change as well. Dining Services plans for students to be able to use their meal plans at on-campus venues opposed to just the dining halls.

Koenen said as of now he feels residential students eat 99.9 percent of their meals in the residence halls, but with the proposed changes, he hopes it would shift closer to 70 percent in the dining halls and 30 percent elsewhere.

“The intent of the dining program going forward is all about offering students, faculty and staff more options to eat wherever, whenever and how they want,” Koenen said.