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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 31, 2006

Changes afoot at Memorial Union

by Anne Krapfl

Work on a phased, $20.8 million renovation of the Memorial Union has begun. The project will include a two-story, 25,000-square-foot addition on the south side of the building that primarily adds office and retail space to the University Book Store. The project also includes a four-story elevator and stairwell tower at the northeast corner of the building that provides access to every above-ground level of the parking ramp and adds a north exterior entrance to the bookstore.

MU renovations

Phase one

A 2.5-year, multi-phased renovation of the Memorial Union got under way earlier this month. The plans include a south addition and a new northeast stairwell tower and entrance that will provide better access to the parking ramp. Learn more about the changes ahead during an April 5 groundbreaking reception in the MU Sun Room. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Richard Reynolds, director of the Union, said a primary goal of the renovation is to improve access and circulation patterns in the building. For example, several new corridors will be created (including a public, east access to the Sun Room and South Ballroom), and the hotel desk will move to the east end of the main floor.

In addition, the phone and computer cable infrastructure in the entire building will be upgraded to current industry standards (parts of the current system date to 1985). The four large meeting rooms on the main floor -- Sun and Oak rooms, South Ballroom and Great Hall -- will be refurbished, including new lighting and sound systems and refinished floors. Acoustics in the South Ballroom will be improved. The glass wall panels in the Sun Room will be replaced with thermal, tinted glass.

Work in the Great Hall, added to the project because of a private gift designated for the space, also will include a refurbished stage, new stage and window curtains, refinished wall woodwork, new tables and chairs, and a new acoustical wall separating the Great Hall and South Ballroom.

The Regency Room will be converted to a large women's restroom suite that will include a family restroom.

Bookstore-cafe combo

Besides more bookstore space, the south addition will include a new 2,100-square-foot Memorial Union Market and Cafe, by ISU Dining, which will replace the MU Cafe and Onion's convenience store on the same level. The new store will be adjacent to bookstore retail space. And there is other retail space in the addition that hasn't been leased yet.

October 2008 is the scheduled completion time for all the work. Miron Construction, Cedar Rapids, is the general contractor.

The most recent renovation proposal didn't include plans to refurbish meeting rooms on the second floor of the Union. However, Reynolds said the bids came in lower than the project budget, which will allow for refurbishing of some of the second-floor meeting rooms. He said Union staff are working with the Miron team to figure out where best to use the windfall -- either the Pioneer Room and Gallery or some of the eight smaller meeting rooms on that floor.

Building access

During the first phase of the project, as the south addition is built and the construction zone extends to Lincoln Way, drivers will have access to the south entrance of the MU parking ramp only from west-bound lanes on Lincoln Way. The driveway off Morrill Road already is closed. MU associate director Gail Ferlazzo said foot traffic in the building will be redirected occasionally during the project, but she said the changes will be noted with signage or even staff posted at key corners during large events.

Paying for the project

Funding for the project includes $14.6 million in bonds, $2.3 million in accumulated student fees for the renovation (plus interest), and $1 million each in bookstore improvement funds and MU funds. Another $958,000 is provided by telecommunications improvement funds, ISU Dining, Printing Services (to renovate space adjacent to the document center) and the Union.

The bonds will be repaid with student fees approved by the Government of the Student Body for the renovation and bookstore rent paid to the Union.


You're invited:

Ceremonial groundbreaking

Wednesday, April 5, 3:15 p.m.

Sun Room, Memorial Union

(reception continues until 5 p.m.)