Preparations are underway for the University Center renovation, which is set to begin in May. The book store has been relocated to the Peter White Lounge and West Hall and the North Wind Office to Gries Hall to accommodate the first phase of construction. The project will include a student-centered core on the first floor, with a relocated Center for Student Enrichment, smaller bookstore and new student activity zone with a pub-style atmosphere. The second floor will feature a 12,000 square-foot ballroom/conference space and reconfigured Great Lakes Rooms.
The most striking visual differences are the façade, composed mostly of glass instead of masonry to enhance the views into and out of the facility, and the contemporary canopy above the main entrance.
“The design is dynamic, modern, functional and represents the energy we have today at Northern,” said President Fritz Erickson during his fall convocation address.
Jim Thams of Engineering and Planning said the Center for Student Enrichment will move front and center—replacing the Peter White Lounge—to increase its visibility. The bookstore footprint will decrease a bit to make room for a student activity zone. It will feature a restaurant offering pub-style menu options and possibly beer and wine, pool tables, foosball, shuffleboard and electronic gaming. Outside of these spaces, there will be several open seating lounges, similar to the informal learning areas in Jamrich Hall.
“A larger veterans’ lounge and the North Wind office will move to the current Center for Student Enrichment (CSE) area,” Thams said. "Simply Superior will maintain its current space, but be consolidated slightly to allow for the relocation of Alumni Relations. This relocation will provide a very welcoming space for alumni in close proximity to the book store, student activity zone and CSE office."
Contractors will raise the roof of the second floor during the renovation, allowing for higher ceilings that current conference spaces lack. The ballroom will occupy the south wing facing the hospital. It will have an event capacity of 1,000, or can be subdivided into as many as four smaller spaces via portable partitions. Thams said the existing Great Lakes Rooms will be reconfigured, leaving some conference space in the east wing.
During the winter of 2017, a campus wide survey was conducted to present the concept for the building and gather input from students, faculty and staff.
“The survey reaffirmed the planning for the building, especially support for a larger conference space and ballroom, as well as the student activity zone,” Thams said. “One of the main questions we wanted the survey to answer was, if we build it, will they come? Overwhelmingly, faculty, staff and students said yes. The key to planning is to keep it within a five-minute walk radius. With The Woods bringing the core of housing closer to the academic mall, the UC now falls within that. For visitors entering campus from Kaye Avenue, the branding on the facility is very impactful. It will be very obvious it's an NMU building."
The first phase of construction is the demolition and reconstruction of the south wing. This phase will be complete by April 2019. The renovations to the Great Lakes wing will begin April 2019 and be completed in August 2019.