Raise the Roof

The UC is—yes!—finally getting a makeover.

By Amy Vames

Senior Andy Benavides knows that the University Center, where he works at the main desk, has seen better days. But he was finally convinced the facility needed work when he heard a squirrel scrambling around in the ceiling over his head. “This building is old,” says Benavides, an econ major. “The university is growing, and it’s time we got something more fitting.”

The university won’t argue with that. “The UC is not adequate when compared with peer institutions,” says Michael Kopas, director of special projects. “From a student comfort perspective, from a retention and recruitment perspective, this project is necessary.” So in May 2011, a yearlong, largely privately funded renovation—the first significant rehab since the UC opened in the late 1950s—is slated to begin, says Kopas. The project, with Princeton-based KSS Architects LLP, is expected to cost approximately $12 million.

The renovation will use the UC’s existing single-floor footprint and introduce a new brick facade. In a significant departure from the current building, certain areas will feature high ceilings, some vaulted and soaring to 24 feet. “We’re going to be able to—literally—raise the roof,” says Kopas.

In the redesigned UC, an entrance tower will usher students into soaring interior spaces.

The still-evolving plans also call for a radical and highly flexible reconfiguration of the space: The snack bar expands and moves out front, where the pool tables are now; the bookstore moves to the Commons to make way for a new lounge with a fireplace (sweet!); and student meeting space shifts back to the area vacated by the snack bar. The Pub will take over a larger space, the bookstore’s current back office.

Environmental stewardship is also steering the project, says Kopas. Massive windows will let in more natural light, and more efficient lighting and ventilation systems will be installed to conserve energy. “We’re pushing for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, at the silver or maybe even gold level,” says Kopas, who admits he also covets a “bio wall,” an interior wall of plants that cools air in the summer and humidifies it during cold weather. “That totally depends on fundraising,” says Kopas, laughing. “It’s not part of the budget.”


One Response to “Raise the Roof”

  1. Chris Dans says:

    Everything Michael Kopas said in this article was right on the money! Three years ago, when I brought my son (then a high school senior) to tour the campus I was stunned (and embarrassed) to see how poorly the facilities at Drew compared to those at most colleges we had toured. The UC had not only gone through no improvements since I’d graduated 25 years before, but it had become just plain seedy.

    But that’s just the beginning. I was also dismayed to see the classrooms in brother’s college were also unimproved since 1982 and that the gym (which I still think of as new) showed signs wear and poor maintenance. We never gave Drew a second thought after that.

    Mr. Kopas really has his work cut out for him.

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