Although nails are still strewn across the concrete floors and the wooden frames are temporary placeholders for the walls, Columbia students will be able to relax, study, create and collaborate. at the Student Center on the first day of the Fall 2019 semester.
Pepper Construction workers wearing hard hats circled the nearly completed student center during a recent tour of the five-story, 114,000 square foot building allowed Chronicle reporters to view the interior of the sprawling building, located at 754 S. Wabash Ave.
The structure is large but minimally designed, built mostly with bare materials, such as concrete columns, floors and stairwells, steel beams and lots of glass, said Student Center director Andy Dutil.
“It was meant as an intention, so that the students and the student work in the building really shines,” Dutil said.
Students employed at a welcome desk will be the first people students see when they enter through the main entrance, rather than security guards like at other Columbia buildings, Dutil said. The center will employ 25 to 30 students in total.
Sophomore music major Tatiana Johnson said she attended a May Day job information session at the Student Center.
“One of [student center management’s] the most important thing is to make sure the building is student-run, so they want a lot of students working there,” Johnson said.
During the briefing, two positions were described to the students: an AV technical position and a general crew position, Johnson said.
Assistant director of student employment Eric Wordlow said a total of 47 students showed up for two information sessions.
Applications for a job at the student center will likely be posted on Handshake within the next week, he said.
The rest of the first floor of the student center will include a cafe and food court, including a pizzeria, deli and restaurant that will rotate vendors.
The second floor will house a space like The Loft and will also include meeting rooms for student organizations and the board of trustees; a new work room called “the maker space”; a dining hall and offices for student life and the director of the student center.
The third floor will include the relocated Career Center and Student Communications offices, soundproof music practice rooms with recording capabilities, movie screening rooms and additional meeting space.
Wordlow’s office for student employment is located within the Career Center, so it will also be moving in.
“I’m ready to step into that space,” Wordlow said. “It will be the first time I work on a university campus where there is a student center.
The fourth floor, dubbed “the wellness floor” by Dutil, will feature a 5,000 square foot fitness center with WiFi-enabled exercise machines and three classrooms for yoga and spin classes. , among other fitness classes. Also upstairs is an interfaith room for prayer and meditation, meeting spaces, and one of the building’s two extensive murals.
Student input dictated the purpose of many spaces in the building, including the Interfaith Hall, Dutil said.
“Really, nothing was planned until the students had their say,” Dutil said.
On the fifth floor, a large event space is expected to accommodate approximately 750 people and accommodate 1,200 to 1,300 people for standing-only events, as reported on Nov. 17, 2018 by the Chronicle. The event space can be divided by a drop-down partition wall. The top floor will also include two terraces and gallery space, Dutil said.
Each floor will have at least one gender-neutral toilet with eight gender-neutral toilets in total in the building.
Seeing that the multipurpose building is used effectively by students is the only concern Johnson said he has.
“At first it will be new, so there will be a lot of people there,” Johnson said. “But over the months, will it still be useful? Will students find this important?
A first major construction delay was caused by some underground CTA track supports protruding onto the Student Center property, which forced Pepper Construction to redesign the building’s foundation. More recent delays are due to extremely cold temperatures last winter, coupled with a delay in receiving the building’s purpose-built glass windows, which left the structure unsealed from harsh conditions, making it too cold to to work.
Despite the delays, spending on the construction of the center hasn’t increased significantly from the original price of $50 million, and the school hasn’t had to dip into tuition to pay for them, Dutil said, adding that he expects daily operating costs do not exceed the planned budget.
“It will be a real culture shift for students here on campus to have a central hub and to have a place where they are welcome anytime to come hang out, create and collaborate – all those good things that we appreciate as a school,” Dutil mentioned.