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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Behind the fence: A look at current UC Davis construction

KATE SNOWDON / AGGIE
KATE SNOWDON / AGGIE

Updates on the UC Davis construction projects

Since the last academic year, construction can be seen on every corner of the UC Davis campus. Whether it’s the beginning of a new International Center near the Segundo Residence Halls or the temporary walls on the second floor of the Memorial Union, students are beginning to question why these buildings are emerging in the first place.

Vanda Rovis, project manager of the new International Center from Design Construction Management for UC Davis, is as dedicated to student success as any other member of the campus community. With the new International Center in a much more centralized location, the hope is that it brings the campus community closer than ever before.

“The International Center is a mixture of programs [and] about 60 percent is specifically for the Center for International Education,” Rovis said. “There will be about 16 classrooms of various sizes [run by Campus Extension]. [The rest include] Global Affairs, Office of Vice Provost Joanna Regulska, Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) and study abroad. [It will be] very student focused, [with] the a lobby area and store-front services.”

Having these services in a more central location will not only bring students closer to campus, but also give them convenient access to useful programs.

“There was a lot of advantage [in] putting [these services] all together in the same building,” Rovis said. “It’s going to be so nice to be able to tell someone ‘oh, [what you are looking for] is just upstairs.’”

To answer concerns about the process, and projected timeline that California Avenue would be a hub of construction traffic, Rovis provides a positive outlook. The International Center should be completed by summer 2016, and according to Rovis, possibly even earlier.

“We are putting what we call the building exterior on,” Rovis said. “If you drive by, you will see the stone going up and [the construction team] starting to do the stucco. We’re closing up the building exterior, [so] we’ll start doing the interiors once that is complete. We’ll start seeing a building looking like a building in the next couple of months.”

In addition to the new International Center, one of the more noticeable construction projects on campus is the renovation of the MU and bookstore. Matt Fucile, director of Building Services for Campus Recreation and Unions, explained that the changes will benefit the students on campus in ways that go beyond the realms of academics and aesthetics.

“Not only […] did [the MU] need to be modernized and create features that are more aligned in what student are looking for in their life and study spaces, but there was a lot of seismic work that needed to be done in different parts of the building,” Fucile said. “Since the project began, it’s been demolition: a lot of the seismic [and infrastructure] work that needed to be done has been a part of the heavy load thus far.”

Early on, through Project Advisory Committees (PACs) and other student groups, Fucile and DCM were able to obtain a broad student perspective on what the campus would like to see in the first and second floors of the new MU.

“[Students] definitely wanted open spaces […to] hang with friends or study in a group,” Fucile said. “What did surprise me is that they didn’t want us to put in the energy in creating dark quiet spaces for them to work if that was going to take away space that could be assigned that was open.”

In addition to new access to digital content, televisions and power outlets, renovation of the MU will also include a revamped north courtyard which faces the Unitrans bus terminal.

“We are just now starting to see some of the architectural elements come into play…you’ll [now] see a new structural element over on the [new] west entry to the store, which wasn’t there a few weeks ago,” Fucile said.  “It’s the new sign of a whole new design [and] that was the first really cool architectural [element].”

Soon, the majority of the work will be visible to passersby and construction is expected to be complete  by the summer 2016 completion date.

“We are just now creeping into the architectural installation; [interior] walls will start to go up and the completion of the engineering work will also be going on,” Fucile said. “In the coming month, you’ll start to see the structure go up on the face of the MU that will create the new two story element that will be out there. Once it starts going up, [the project] will start to look like something quick.”

Fucile said there is an ongoing debate regarding the safety of Freeborn Hall, which is currently closed. Seismic concerns are only in the main auditorium, while the basement, which holds multiple offices of Student Affairs, remains earthquake-safe.

“Campus went through a whole process where they had seismic engineers […] rate some buildings, [and Freeborn] was rated at a level that made campus rethink what the plan was for it,” Fucile said. “We really need to hone in and make a good practical choice…[but] we’re not close to figuring out what the future of Freeborn or that site is. It’s a work in progress.”

Rovis and Fucile credit Bob Segar, assistant vice chancellor of Campus Planning and Community Resources (CPCR), and his campus framework for organizing the sites of all campus construction projects. Every decade, the campus drafts  a new Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), in which CPCR considers development patterns, needs for new infrastructure and students and staff population for designing a new campus layout.

“We use these plans to look at locations to make sure that if any new project lands on the campus, that we’re meeting goals for [things like] what kind of public space and social space are we creating for students, and how are we are putting buildings where they need to be adjacent to other programs,” Segar said.  “At the top of the list is program adjacency, the second is access and circulation and the third [is] good public spaces.”

Segar sees the campus benefiting from the changes and additions happening with the International Center and the MU, and is designing them to fit around the framework of the campus.

“We think about the internal dynamics of the campus, but we’re also paying attention to the edges of the campus and how [these projects] border the [Davis] community,” Segar said. “[For the MU], it was more about the public space and how we bring all these people together in a more functional and attractive entrance to the campus. [For the International Center], it’s about that program and what was the right neighborhood for it.”

In order to address student and faculty interest as well as help develop the future of the UC Davis campus, Segar and his associates will be setting up an exhibit of the framework of the LRDP in the Nelson Gallery. Through workshops and open houses, Segar hopes to receive input from the campus and community on what the next decade should look like for the campus construction-wise.

The open houses kick off next week and we’ll be running the planning process through next spring by April we want a preferred planning scenario,” Segar said.Until you articulate [the framework] like this, people have no way of seeing it. If you paint a clear enough picture, then when the next opportunity comes, you [figure out] a move that works for the larger-picture things we’re trying.”

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