If you build it…

It started out so simply: The U changed its health benefits for students and employees, thus making the U pharmacy more beneficial to use.

But as a single pebble dropped into a placid lake can make waves to the very shore, so did this single act impact the entire look and feel of the Union.

Because it is now cheaper than many private pharmacies, the U pharmacy wanted to be in an easier-access location, said Whit Hollis, director of the Union.

“It’d be convenient for our students [to go to the Union] rather than go off campus,” he said.

According to Hollis, a recent market analysis reported that 83 percent of the U’s student body goes to the Union once or more a week, meaning that the Union averages 14,000 people a day.

“[The Union is] probably the busiest building on campus,” Hollis said.

So the U pharmacy wanted to move into this prime location, though space was not readily available.

“The [UCard office] did not need as much square footage as when it was originally built,” Hollis said, adding that because most students receive their UCards during orientation, a large office is no longer needed. “It’s the domino effect.”

The new pharmacy displaced the old UCard office, which is in the process of moving upstairs into the old art gallery.

“We are not getting rid of the idea of an art gallery in the Union,” Hollis said. “We are still very committed to that concept.”

However, as plans still need to be finalized, the art gallery will have to temporarily reside in the display cases in each of the wings.

In the meantime, Union administrators continue to improve the Union in an effort to make the building the true heart of the campus.

“We’ve got million-dollar ideas and a $10 budget,” said Ryck Luthi, Union associate director.

Hollis agrees: “We’ve been very methodical suing the money from the Union board.”

Yet even under a tight budget, the Union administration has managed to secure a DVD-vending machine, six new computers for Internet games and an all-legal, music-downloading machine from Mediaport. This machine is ready for use today, but technical difficulties have delayed the opening of the DVD machine to next week.

The computers will be up and running sometime next month, Luthi said.

Some delays have cropped up in the remodeling as well. The new UCard office was expected to be open before school started, but now is projected to be up and running sometime after mid-September, according to Hollis.

The construction for the pharmacy is now set to begin in two weeks, with completion estimated to be around Feb. 1, Hollis said.

After the pharmacy construction has begun, then the bowling alley and the billiards room will be remodeled, adding a new lounge area, a new vending area and remodeled bathrooms, Hollis said. He also hopes that by tearing down the walls currently surrounding the billiards room, the new space will feel more open and inviting to students.

Still, Luthi and others are disappointed by the delays.

“Things never move as fast as we want them to,” Luthi said. He cited the age of the building as somewhat problematic for the construction.

“When it was built 50 years ago, it was built for one thing,” Luthi said. “The building is so solid it’s hard to make it flexible” enough to house all the service and entertainment needs of the students.

In addition, the construction also has to bring the building up to standard for fire and earthquake codes.

Adding to the chaos of the construction, Hollis’ office was moved up to the fourth floor of the Union, as will several other administrative offices.

“We were expecting new staff members, so we needed the space,” Hollis said.

Independent of the Union remodeling and office shuffling, Chartwells has also begun construction of a new convenience store where the old Union Express used to reside.

Mike Paulus, director of Chartwells, plans to triple the amount of product lines available, expand the hours of operation and increase the number of services provided.

“We will have a microwave available because we will have microwavable meals,” he said.

Paulus also plans to add paper products, cosmetics, sundries, pencils and Grab-n-Go meals to the inventory.

“[It will be] more like a traditional C-store without the beer and gas,” Paulus said.

The good news is that this construction is a little ahead of schedule, and the new Outtakes store will be open for business starting Sept. 3, with a grand opening on Sept. 8.

Paulus, Luthi and Hollis are all excited for the projects’ completion, when students can finally reap the benefits of the Union’s new facilities.

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