Campus Commons project on track, planning to open in spring

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The last Hard Hat tour of the Campus Commons’ progress was conducted in early March, giving UNC community members an inside look at the construction. Photo courtesy of unco.edu.

Construction on the University of Northern Colorado Campus Commons will finish, for most of the building, in early December, and it could be open to students as early as next semester.

Kirk Leichliter, the assistant vice president of facilities management, said all of the building, except for the performance hall, should be done with construction by finals week.

According to Leichliter, the university has remained on schedule and on budget with the building. This means offices and services can start moving into the Campus Commons over winter break, and parts of the Commons will begin operation in the spring semester.

“There haven’t been any delays during construction,” Leichliter said. “Once we had the contractor on board, they’re the ones that, as the experts, tell us how much time they need and lay it out. It has not changed since then. It’s actually improved.”

Construction costs have also been as planned; no contingency money, which is cash reserved for unknown expenses, has been used yet. A project several years in the making, the groundbreaking of the newest building on campus took place during the 2016 Homecoming celebrations with a vision to rehouse certain services, give students a centralized performance space and create a gateway to UNC.

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While students can only observe the external changes of the building from afar, some progress was visible at the beginning of the school year. The tunnel under 11th Avenue and a portion of the bike path along the University Center reopened last month.

As the end of construction nears, announcements have rolled in clarifying certain details about the overall vision of this ambitious project. One such detail about the Campus Commons is the the integrated services center’s name change from One Stop Plus to GPS+, which was one of the main reasons the building was proposed.

Sarah Chase was appointed director of this program in 2017, which aims to help students navigate the complexities of the college process.

“The Commons will address a longstanding priority to offer a consolidated student services center,” said University President Andrew Feinstein. “What we’re calling ‘GPS+’ will help reduce hopscotching through campus to get academic support and take care of transactional items such as obtaining a transcript or paying a bill.”

It was announced to students in late August that the building would centralize the financial aid, registrar and bursar offices. According to Feinstein, the university is still deliberating what will be done with the offices that are vacated.

Originally, the Commons was also going to house UNC’s Center for International Education, Career Services and Office of Engagement. But the other offices were prioritized because of their high volume of student interaction.

According to a late August email sent to the student body by Interim Provost Theodora Kalikow, these three offices alone receive a combined 94,000 phone calls, 108,000 emails and 15,000 walk-ins every year. The performance hall, another staple of the Campus Commons vision, will be finished around early to mid-February.

“The Commons will provide curricular needs and a performance hall venue that matches the quality of the College of Performing and Visual Arts,” Kalikow said in the email.

However, some students raised concerns with the building, especially when construction started, and those problems remain present. Timothy Hernandez, UNC’s student body president, has recognized these worries.

“I think a lot of students think of it as, ‘Why did we spend so much money?’” Hernandez said. “They see it as a misallocation of resources.”

Every student taking over 10 credit hours pays a fee, which goes towards facility and capital expenses; this money is used to maintain the university as a whole. The overall fee went from $325 to $455 for the 2018-2019 school year. Of this fee, $160 goes towards the construction of the Campus Commons.

“I don’t think the Campus Commons is the greatest decision, but it’s not bad,” Hernandez said. “It will be useful. If we actually look at what it’s going to do, I think it will be a benefit.”

Current students may not feel all the benefits of the building, as a fundamental part of the building is geared toward prospective students. It is meant to serve as the starting point for tours of the campus and a gateway for all visitors to UNC.

“I know, I have those conversations,” said Hernandez, who is also a recruitment ambassador for the university. “Saying ‘Yeah, you’re in this building right now. You need to walk 20 minutes and get financial aid and wait for an appointment…’ It’s going to be a little bit more streamlined. It will help especially our new student experience.”

There are more plans for the Commons in the spring semester as construction finishes and the building becomes fully operational.

“We’ll have an open house in April when we anticipate the performance hall will open,” Feinstein said. “We’ll share more details as they come into focus and the semester progresses.”

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