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New Student Center Site Selected at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Feb. 13, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — A space along Park Avenue between Zorn Arena and Schneider Hall on 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 (specifically bus and semi-truck traffic), parking, proximity to student populations during the day and evening, student activities, and how the project affects future campus development.

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

At its Feb. 10 meeting, the steering committee selected the Zorn Arena-Schneider Hall option as its preferred site and forwarded its recommendation to Levin-Stankevich. The chancellor affirmed the committee's decision and selected the Zorn Arena-Schneider Hall option.

"While both options had positive attributes, analysis of the Zorn-Schneider site shows it is in closer proximity to where students walk to and from classes, which will give students more ready and easy access to the new union," Levin-Stankevich said. "The site also offers better opportunities to maximize student use of mass transit to and from lower campus, while also resulting in less bus and semi-truck congestion."

The Zorn-Schneider site also doesn't have the flood plain and environmental impact concerns that existed with the site option behind Davies Center, Levin-Stankevich said.

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.

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.

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MR/JB

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