NMU student input sought on UC development

Northern Michigan University student Kylie Decker view photos of facilities from other Michigan campuses as part of a student input session on the proposed renovation of the Don H. Bottom University Center on Monday, while in the backgroud other students get information from university officials about the proposed development project. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — What will draw students to the Don H. Bottom University Center on Northern Michigan University’s campus and keep them coming back?

Engineers charged with the redesign of the structure brought that question to the foremost experts on the matter: current NMU students.

Students were invited to the several feedback sessions on Monday to look at preliminary design ideas that represent the project thus far, as well as pictures of updated buildings on other Michigan campuses.

A university-appointed committee is working with Nuemann\Smith Architecture on design plans for the remodeling of the UC, but the actual design is still in the programming stage and has yet to be decided — that is, in part, where the students come in.

“We are really excited about the possibilities,” said Kathy Richards, associate vice president of Engineering and Planning and Facilities at NMU. “That’s why we are asking the students here today, to make sure that if we build it, they will come.”

Students were asked questions about what type of amenities they would like to see in the building and the social and leisure activities they would be interested in.

According to a January 2016 Mining Journal article, the project is part of a five-year alignment plan aimed at modernization and asset preservation on campus.

The NMU Board of Trustees recently approved $1.3 million to proceed with the design phase of the UC project.

The university has budgeted $17.5 million for the entire renovation effort.

The UC is currently home to the NMU bookstore, a cafeteria-style restaurant, a U.S. Post office branch, student organization offices, the student radio station and newspaper, a student art gallery, and a conference center that can accomodate 600 people.

Increasing capacity for conferences and events is a major reason for the project, Richards said, in addition to correcting long-term maintenance conditions caused by an outdated building.

The project is intended to create more open spaces, with easier way-finding for both students and conference guests, Richards said.

The proposed design will allow student organizations to be moved from the back of the building to the front in order to make them more visible and accessible, Richards said.

Student facilities, such as the bookstore, will remain on the first floor of the building with a grand staircase leading to the conferencing center on the second floor.

As part of the proposed design, the existing Great Lakes Rooms would be replaced with a large ballroom with partitions that would allow the room to be divided into four separate spaces, Richards said.

The new design would also allow for 14 break-out spaces to accomodate separate meetings during large conferences.

The new design would expand conferencing capacity to 940, and theater-style seating will accommodate 1,300 people.

“The new design would accomodate larger venues and will also create more open and more welcoming, larger pre-function space for registration and networking space between sessions,” Richards said.

Students were given surveys and could also view photographs of similar facilities on other Michigan campuses.

Derek Hall, assistant vice president of Marketing and Communications, was one of the NMU representatives who visited the structures. Hall said the group went to Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University to look at examples of both remodeled and new buildings.

“We just looked at how they functioned, where they sat on campus and their usage. It was really interesting to watch the student patterns,” Hall said.

The committee members took photos of the spaces in those buildings, which were presented to NMU students at Monday’s feedback sessions.

Hall said there is no set date for construction on the UC project to begin.

“There are no timelines yet, we are still in the idea collecting phase (planning phase),” Hall said in an email.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.