LAFAYETTE — The long-awaited renovations to University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s student union are scheduled to begin in a few weeks, said the university’s facilities director.
By the time the semester starts Aug. 20, the only service open in the building will be the bookstore, said William Crist, campus facilities manager.
“The plan is for the heavy construction to start around Aug. 15 and the completion date as of right now is August of 2014,” Crist said.
Students gave their support to the update and expansion of the building about 10 years ago when they approved a $55 fee per semester dedicated to the renovation project.
Another $20 per semester project fee was instituted in 2005.
The Lemoine Co. submitted the low bid and the cost for the project is estimated at $35 million, Crist said.
The university has collected about $19 million from the student fees and sold another $23 million in bonds to finance the project.
The student union is a hub for student services and houses food services and offices for housing and student programming. A small theater that hosts independent film series and a large ballroom are also located in the building.
The existing union is about 128,000 square feet. The expansion will add about 48,000 square feet, said Wayne Domingue, project manager with Architects Southwest. A majority of the work involves new construction, however, the large ballroom, theater and bookstore will be renovated, Domingue said.
The building will be “pulled back” from Cypress Lake to make room for a large courtyard or plaza that fronts the water, he said.
“We’re engaging the building much more significantly with McKinley Street, and we’re maintaining and respecting all the large oaks along McKinley,” Domingue said.
Second-floor meeting rooms in the union will have balconies that open onto McKinley, he said.
“We’re also bringing the dining areas to the second levels, which will allow a full engagement of the lake from an upper level venue,” Domingue said.
To make way for the work, the building’s cafeteria will move to nearby Guillory Hall, which had served as a large study hall for students.
“Guillory Hall is now Canebrake Cafeteria,” said Anthony Daniel, student union director. “They’re putting everything in place as we speak.”
In the past year, some services began the move to new locations to prepare for the project.
“It’s all been a giant jigsaw puzzle,” Crist said.
Last year, O.K. Allen Hall was renovated to become the new student health services center, which includes counseling and testing.
Health services were housed in Saucier Hall, which was demolished, and counseling and testing were on the second floor of Olivier Hall, now known as Vermilion Hall.
Vermilion Hall will now be the temporary home of the student union’s administrative offices, Ticketmaster, University Program Council offices, and Cajun Card and student identification card services, Daniel said.
The second floor of the adjacent Coronna Hall, now called Lafayette Hall, will provide meeting rooms to student organizations that previously met in the student union.
The two halls, along with Guillory, will be demolished once the project is complete. The university received approval to demolish Saucier and the other three buildings in 2010.
Initially, the university considered demolishing all four buildings to begin the work, but opted to wait because of the costs and the need for space for relocated services.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said of the renovations. “We hope to be out of here before school starts. It depends on how quickly they get our phone and Internet activated.”