UW-Eau Claire: Selects new student center site

EAU CLAIRE — A green space located between the current Davies Center and the Phillips Hall parking lot on the south side of lower campus is the preferred site of a new student-funded $48.8 million student center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich announced today.

In making the selection, Levin-Stankevich considered factors including but not limited to flood plain and sustainability issues, traffic flow, parking, proximity to student populations during the day and evening, proximity to McIntyre Library, student activities, and how the project affects future campus development.

The Davies Redevelopment Steering Committee had narrowed the site options to two locations: the space between Davies Center and the Phillips Hall parking lot and an area between Zorn Arena and Schneider Hall along Park Avenue on lower campus. Those sites were identified by the committee as the best options following presentations earlier this month by architects from the Philadelphia-based architectural firm Burt, Hill and the Wisconsin-based firm Bray Architects.

The selection decision follows a series of meetings attended by the chancellor with the Davies Redevelopment Steering Committee, the Building Committee and students. During the most recent meetings, participants used interactive clicker technology (also used in some classrooms) to indicate their preferences on a number of site selection issues.

“The site selection is another significant step in the development of a new student union,” Levin-Stankevich said. “I appreciate the efforts of our students and members of the building committees who have worked diligently for many years to further this project.

“Not only will a new student union be a great enhancement for our campus, but its development comes at a time when our community will benefit greatly from jobs created by its construction.”

Now that a preferred option for the new student center has been selected, technical analysis of the site will be undertaken and public input will be solicited. That analysis and input will help inform the building design and construction process.

Construction of the project is scheduled to begin in summer 2010, with occupancy of the building in late fall 2012.

The project will be funded through segregated fees, which are paid by students. No tax dollars will be involved in the development or operation of the new building. This capital project will not be affected by anticipated operating budget reductions in the 2009-11 budget. Student fees collected for the project will be used to pay debt service and cannot be used for any other purposes.

Discussions about and planning for a new student center have been under way for a number of years. A 2000 student referendum found that a majority of students supported updating and expanding Davies Center and increasing student segregated fees to pay for it. Project leaders then found Davies was in need of such extensive renovation that the original $8.5 million budget would not be enough.

A 2003 referendum that called for additional increases in student segregated fees to support a new building failed. But a spring 2005 survey found that about 75 percent of the 2,666 student respondents believed Davies needed renovation. The results of that survey led to further definition of a potential redevelopment project, which was proposed in December 2005. Sixty-four percent of student respondents supported the redevelopment project, with funds coming from segregated fees.

The university began collecting fees to support the project in fall 2000. During the 2008-09 academic year, each student paid $201 to support the project. Fees will reach about $326 a year in 2010-11. It’s expected that fees would continue at that rate for 20 years to pay for the project.

The existing student center opened in 1959. A 1964 addition doubled its size, with additional expansion and updates made to the building in 1976, 1982 and 1991.