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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Plans begin for Memorial Union remodeling

The Memorial Union (MU) is expected to receive a renovation sometime in the near future with the hopes of bringing new life to the facility.

Plans are currently being put forth for the remodeling of the East Wing, which now houses the Post Office, Campus Copies/Classical Notes and the Information Center. The project also includes a wayfaring initiative to improve the entrance to the MU from the bus terminal. Designs are barely in the development stage, and definitive decisions have yet to be made regarding what will be added to the wing. Ideas include additional lounge space and outdoor seating, an area for live entertainment, more retail space and a pub.

The project aims to be as student-oriented as possible in order to satisfy the desires of the general population.
“The more student input, the better,” said Brett Burns, Business Manager of ASUCD.
According to Burns, leaders from greek, intercollegiate athletics and various other organizations will have input on the plans. Two student representatives will sit on the Memorial Union Planning and Analysis Committee, and a Memorial Union Remodel Student Advisory Committee was established by ASUCD President Rebecca Sterling in collaboration with Executive Director of Campus Recreation John Campbell.
Sterling feels that the current state of the MU lacks the proper energy for such a central location.
“The Memorial Union is highly outdated, and is greatly lacking social space,” she said in an e-mail interview. “While our University is in a tight economic crunch, it is important that we preserve the quality of student life and experience.  As the Memorial Union is one of the main student hubs on campus, it is critical that students feel comfortable and a sense of ownership of this space, and as it is currently, that is simply missing.”
Sterling hopes the renovations will have a positive effect on the spirit of UC Davis.
“I believe this remodel has the potential of revitalizing the MU with a whole new energy and vibe,” she said.
Some students are skeptical if this year is an appropriate time to focus attention and funding toward the building.
“I feel that the MU is pretty functional as it is,” said Jordan Wade, a daily attendee of the MU. “Not to say that the space couldn’t be improved upon, but given the budget, there would have to be some very strong pros.”
Johnny Wiley, who sits on one of the committees that will have a say on the designs, is also unsure.
“I think it is a good idea, but I hesitate whether we have the budget to do that right now. Then again, we haven’t had our first meeting, so I don’t know yet,” he said.
Questions concerning the budget seem to be of major concern. According to Burns, however, the project has already been reduced significantly due to monetary limitations, and the cost should not be seen as a burden.
“It started off as a much larger project, and it’s been reduced in scope,” he said. “It might blossom up in the future, but because of reducing budget issues, the project has moved down to about a $15 million budget. I know this sounds like a lot of money, but it’s really not when you’re trying to do a large renewal program.”
According to Sterling, a reserve account has been accruing to absorb the costs the project will incur.
One of the more popular concepts for the new MU is the addition of a small pub.
“Many students have expressed interest in a pub in the MU, which would bring much energy to the facility,” Sterling said.

The concept, according to Burns, is a space in which students and faculty could interact with each other in a fun environment, much like the Bear Lair at UC Berkeley.

Regardless of any informal plans, it seems that the only thing certain is that nothing is certain.
“The student committee has yet to officially meet, so I cannot speak to what ideas will come from the committee,” Sterling said.
Burns asserts that even a general timeline is too premature.
“The key right now is simply getting students into the design exercise,” he said.
Burns also feels like the MU is in need of a new image that meets the modernity and functionality of buildings like the newly built Student Community Center.
“It’s a tired building. It needs to open up, with open, bright spaces like the Community Center,” he said. “The MU should be the heart of campus, because every school deserves to have a vibrant student union where students can socialize and study.”
Thought of as the unofficial center of campus, the MU sees roughly 10,000 to 15,000 people and 7,500 transactions at the CoHo every day. With such a large number, many seem to feel that the MU should look and feel as important as it is.
“Hopefully through the remodel, the MU will become the campus go-to socializing space for students,”  Sterling said.ADAM KHAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.  

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