What’s Building at the U?

Carolyn+and+Kem+Gardner+Building+at+the+University+of+Utah+in+July+2018+when+it+was+still+being+constructed.+Chronicle+archives.

Cass Palor

Carolyn and Kem Gardner Building at the University of Utah in July 2018 when it was still being constructed. Chronicle archives.

By Jacqueline Mumford, Managing Editor

 

From Presidents Circle up to the University of Utah Medical Center, banners that read “Excitement is Building” can be found. With the completion of new buildings and more underway in the planning and in-progress stages, the U seems to be living up to its promise. As the U begins, completes and continues construction, some students are feeling the fallout.

In the last year alone, the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons building, Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House, Robert H. and Katharine B. Garff Executive Education Building and the Crocker Science Center have all been completed.

MHC Dorm Renovations

Outside of classroom and office buildings, the U embarked on multiple on-campus housing projects. This summer, the Marriott Honors Community (MHC) is closed for the first time since opening in 2012. The entire first floor, which includes multiple open study areas, a library and three classrooms as well as offices and a small market, will be renovated throughout the summer.

These renovations will mostly consist of furniture replacement on the first floor and lobby and within each floor’s lounge areas.

“The current furniture is at the end of its usefulness and is worn out and faded from the sun,” Remsburg said. “The project is being priced out at this time so we do not have a final cost. The funds used for the project are the remaining funds from construction of the building.”

According to Barb Remsburg, the U’s director of Housing and Residential Education (HRE), housing made an effort to involve students in the remodeling process.

An alternative option to the chair and table set to go into the first-floor lobby area. Courtesy of Barb Remsburg.

Two posters were put up near the front desk in the MHC lobby offering two possible new layouts for the building. Students were encouraged to “vote” by placing a sticky note or tally mark on their preferred board. About seventy students participated.

“Student feedback was used to finalize the project scope,” Remsburg said. “We used their feedback to select the style we went with. Other suggestions [from students] included integrating more whiteboards and more outlets. We are integrating them into the layout.”

A potential chair and table set to go into the first-floor lobby area. Courtesy of Barb Remsburg.

“When we planned the construction of the MHC, we projected how students, faculty, and staff would use the space. Now that the building has been open for seven years, we are able to integrate student requests for how they want to use the space in the future.”

This renovation coincides with the construction of a new dorm building that will house nearly 1,000 new students. The new dorm will have four wings focusing on different disciplines from the health sciences to community engagement. This new dorm building will be located near the Student Life Center and the MHC and will house a new dining hall to rival the Peterson Heritage Center (PHC) on upper campus, which is projected to be completed and ready for first-year students to move in as soon as August 2020. According to Remsburg, HRE plans to close the MHC again during summer of 2020 “to support any additional work that needs to be completed” in terms of the renovations.

A potential couch and table piece to go into the first-floor lobby area. Courtesy of Barb Remsburg.

University of Utah Housing decided to close the MHC during the Fall 2018 semester, but these remodeling efforts were planned for Summer 2019.

HRE saw the summer semester “as an opportunity and knew that we needed to integrate some upgrades as several finishes have a seven-year life cycle. We did not want to negatively impact summer students through early morning concrete pours and construction work, along with limited parking.”

The MHC library and the area by the TV, now with tables. Courtesy of Barb Remsburg.

The South Campus Housing and Dining Project has closed the MHC garbage chutes and parking lot as well as impacted running water availability within the building since construction on the new dorms began. For students like Miriam Schryver, a senior double majoring in anthropology and classics, construction at the MHC and across campus took a serious hit to her mobility.

The Student Impact of Construction

“It was a rough year all around campus for parking,” Schryver said. “[The MHC parking lot closure] was really nerve-wracking. I had a warning, but there wasn’t much I could do to prepare. There’s only one guaranteed handicap spot right outside the MHC. My mobility ranges. I often need a cane and can’t walk more than 50 yards without needing to rest.”

Schryver worked as a front desk assistant at the MHC this past school year and now at Lassonde for the summer during MHC renovations.

“There were times I nearly missed a class or was late for work because there wasn’t a spot at the MHC. In the winter, when it snowed, it was almost impossible to get in and out because they couldn’t properly plow it. If I couldn’t park, I was pretty much screwed.”

Some students got even less, and, in some cases, no warning about construction happening across campus. Building 73, colloquially referred to as the “old law school building,” sits between the Roy W. and Elizabeth E. Simmons Memorial Pioneer Theatre and the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Building 73 housed many departments, including environmental and sustainability studies, geography, health, society and policy, as well as university organizations like the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Office of Development. According to Matt Yurick, the director of Space, Planning and Management at the U, Building 73 was closed at the beginning of 2019, at which point departments began to vacate.

Building 73 Renovations 

Building 73 will be the new home of the Office of Institutional Advancement and the Department of Theater. The Performing Arts Building (PAB) is a “less than desirable space” for the theater department, Yurick said.

“About three years ago, we embarked on a process of identifying new homes [for those offices]. We were able to come up with an adequate program and renovation plan that allowed us to in a really, pretty short order, close out the semester and engage in a clinical type of construction build out to get the building ready for Fall 2019.”

However, Lilly Glennon, a freshman in sociology, had her writing course scheduled in the building for the summer semester.

“It was my first day ever on campus as a freshman student. I walked to campus and found the building [Building 73] my first class was to be in was under construction. I checked every entrance, all of which were marked ‘Hard Hat Zone, Keep Out,'” Glennon said.

“I panicked and checked Canvas and CIS because, at that point, I didn’t think I’d be able to find the classroom on time. I found no changed information on the class and called the registrar, who then transferred me a bunch of times. It seemed like no one knew that the building was under construction.”

Glennon’s professor eventually messaged the class right before it was scheduled to begin with a new class location, Gardner Commons, but Glennon was too overwhelmed.

“I went home and dropped the class because, at that point, my anxiety was raging. Luckily, I found a new class, but it was not a fun first experience on campus,” she said.

“It sounds like the location was carried over from a previous summer term and moved when the clash was detected to another location,” Yurick said. “I’m speculating it went unnoticed when the majority of Writing 1010 courses were moved to Gardner Commons during Fall 2018. An unfortunate, honest mistake. On the academic calendar, I haven’t seen anything scheduled for Building 73 for some time.”

Yurick emphasized the importance of students using campus resources and reaching out and making conflicts known on campus when they bump into them.

“I tend to frame things in where the solutions are for any one solution,” Yurick said. “When we’re only hearing about one instance, we can’t tell if it’s replicated. Are there six students in a class who have mobility needs, and we only know of one?”

For more information about current construction, visit https://pdc.utah.edu/.

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@JacqAtTheChrony