Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Campus Center Concourse receives facelift

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

There’s more updates to come to the Campus Center.

Currently, the old lights have been ripped out and replaced with new ones that hang down like flying saucers. The concrete walls outside the Blue Wall Café have been replaced with open glass windows.

And by the end of October – when Phase I of the renovations iw expected to be completed – the fresh red banners lining the walls will boast new signs.

Director of Auxiliary Enterprises Ken Toong hopes the renovations will make the concourse “a lot more inviting” and “vibrant.”

Toong envisions the concourse to eventually look similar to Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York, which is a large food and wine marketplace vaunting many fine restaurants.

“I think it looks great,” said sophomore transfer student Joe Callagy. “The lighting looks cool. It’s good that they’re willing to spend money on it to fix it and make it better.”

Phase I of the project set the Auxiliary Enterprise’s reserves back $1.25 million.

“We’re 100 percent self-supporting,” Toong said.  “We didn’t get any money from the University at all.”

But 26-year-old graduate student, Thomas Longyear, was unsure whether the changes were worth the high cost.

“That seems like a lot,” he said. “It doesn’t look that much different.”

Angela Costanzi, a 22-year-old graduate student, shared similar feelings when she visited the concourse for the first time this year.

“To be honest, I had a hard time noticing the changes,” Costanzi said.

But, she also admired the renovations.

“I like the openness from Blue Wall,” she said. “It looks a little brighter … less cold.”

The contractor for Phase I was Marois Construction Company from South Hadley.

The 44-year-old Campus Center will undergo more changes during the upcoming Phase II, which “should begin during the winter break of 2013,” said University of Massachusetts spokesman Patrick Callahan in an email.

According to Callahan, Phase II will include wholesale renovation of the Blue Wall Café, the Marketplace, the U-Pub and restrooms.

The area’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be renovated as well.

“It’s going to benefit the building,” said Claudia Brown, director of finance for Auxiliary Enterprises.

Phase II is a $10 million project that will be funded by the UMass Building Authority through a bond issue. The funds will be borrowed and then repaid by the new facility’s revenues.

Toong said the construction will make the Campus Center a place for eating, shopping and entertainment.  He wants it to be “a fun place” and “a place to hang around.”

Besides accommodating the current overflow of student traffic in the Center’s dining areas, Toong thinks that the renovations will welcome visitors and draw businesses for conferences in the summertime.

Toong and Brown both said the Campus Center is the hub of the University, and that the changes are worth the time and money.

“It shouldn’t be dark and dreary,” Brown said.

She said that the construction coincides with the opening of the New Academic Classroom Building, giving them the “opportunity not just to make it right, but make it nice.”

Brown also said that a skywalk will be constructed between the Center and the New Academic Classroom Building, and that there will be new landscaping on the lawn outside of the Blue Wall.

They also plan to power wash the building, according to Toong.

Brown encourages students to be patient during the process, and to wait until the renovations are completed before forming an opinion about them.

“It’s not done yet.  Reserve judgments for when the project is finished,” she said.

Mary Reines can be reached at [email protected].


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