After nearly a year of construction, Gardner Commons will replace Orson Spencer Hall. It will open fall semester 2018. The groundbreaking ceremony was held earlier this year on Oct. 28 in the Marriott Library Plaza, east of which construction began soon after.
Funding for the project came from a variety of sources including the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, the Meldrum Foundation, Chartwells Higher Education, Rocco C. Siciliano, the Richard and Leslie Haskell Family Foundation, Jeffrey K. and Sarah S. Scott as well from student fees.
The primary donors, however, were alumni and building namesakes Carolyn and Kem Gardner. They gave $10 million to help fund the $68 million building.
“We hope that this new structure will be a place where students can learn and grow together,” said Carolyn Gardner. “Both Kem and I are alumni from the U and some of our favorite experiences here were in the classroom learning from amazing professors and in the halls befriending fellow students. We’re excited to provide today’s U students with a facility that fosters both exceptional education and close community.”
According to the Gardner Commons project web page, “The Gardner building will house 33 classrooms, two auditoriums, conference and project rooms, collaborative laboratory facilities and several student study spaces.” The building will serve as home-base for the College of Social and Behavioral Science, but also service 14 other departments and come with several food and dining options for students as well as a retail store. Gardner Commons will house the Hinckley Institute, the Social Science Research Institute and the National Center for Veteran’s Studies.
Additional features of Gardner Commons include a “joint laboratory shared by the departments of Geography and Anthropology,” the Collaborative Social Science Advising Center and the University of Utah Welcome Center, “which will showcase the array of high quality, comprehensive student opportunities available at the university.”
“Gardner Commons is a significant upgrade from OSH,” said Lori Kaczka, project manager for Gardner Commons. “GC is a fully modernized learning environment that features improved classrooms and collaborative spaces along with upgraded dining options and a new welcome center.”
Those who yearn for mementos of Orson Spencer Hall will have to look elsewhere, as Gardner Commons has entirely replaced the old building. “Students who had the experience of taking classes in OSH will find it difficult to compare the two facilities,” Kaczka said. “Seating, classroom technologies, even the bathrooms are a significant upgrade.”
Not only will the building sport a brand new look and feel, but it will also be powered by alternative energy sources.
“The building also reflects the University of Utah’s commitment to leadership in sustainability,” Kaczka said. “A geothermal system is part of the heating and cooling of GC, a very exciting addition to other sustainability-focused features in the building.”
The ultimate hope for the building, according to Kaczka, is that it will be a breath of fresh air for the U.
“Gardner Commons will add so much life and vitality back to the heart of campus.”