UC Construction Uses Disney Techniques: Facilities adds bird sounds and landscape mural to disguise building site

First Floor Construction 1
The UC construction site is hidden by a decorated wall barrier. (Emily Bogden/Foghorn)

The first floor of the University Center has been the recent focus of an extensive program to physically transform the university campus. Nearly a semester has passed since crews entered the site to give the University Center’s basement level a thorough overhaul.

“It appears that they [the improvements] are on schedule,” said Mike London.

London is the vice president for Facilities Management, and is closely tied to the development of many of the university’s construction projects. The renovation’s program, according to London, “was determined almost one year ago, and was vetted with the student leadership at that time.”

Since a previous Foghorn article regarding university renovations was published (“UC First Floor Construction to Last until Winter”, 16 Sep 2010), visible changes have occurred to the floor’s layout.

The location of the former “Green and Gold Room,” which housed a variety of now-relocated student services up to the end of last school year, was absorbed into the work site in the early weeks of the fall semester. Outtahere, a specialty convenience store notable for serving breakfast all day, has likewise been out of commission for most of the semester as a result of the construction.

Freshman Alejandra Flores said  of Outtahere’s removal, “I hate it. It was the one location on campus that was open the latest.” Flores said that if she wants to eat during late night hours, she now has to buy food from Outtakes. However, she has become accustomed to the change.

First Floor Construction 2
According to Vice Provost Peter Novak, the first floor will be ready in February. (Emily Bogden/Foghorn)

The heavily frequented Crossroads student lounge has also been affected by renovation-related changes; soon after the September 16 article was published, a partition was erected within Crossroads and was quickly filled in with orange-painted gypsum board, substantially reducing the lounge’s square footage and tightening circulation space.

“Right now it looks like it will be the latter part of December” London said of the expected completion date for most of the first floor.

London estimated the entire project will be completed in February, when USF’s bookstore, currently housed on the ground level of Phelan Hall, will be moved to the first floor of the University Center.

During November afternoons in the UC building, construction-related clatter could be heard emanating from the ground-level construction site. London acknowledged that the construction process is a noisy one.

“We are taking available measures to reduce the type of noise that is intrusive,” he said.

“Because we must complete the project at a time when the bookstore is available for a move, we must pursue completion during this semester.” The disruptive noise should die down, according to London, by December.

Aside from the noise, other changes include the removal of Outtahere from its former home on the first floor. Currently, the location is closed to install a shear wall, a structural earthquake safety measure.

“Ultimately that [where Outtahere once stood] will be a video/entertainment area, and Outtahere will be re-located to another place,” London said. Outtahere will likely reopen in its new location no sooner than January of 2011.

As for the changes at the east end of the UC building, the construction site barrier has been decorated with a temporary opaque wall with a brightly decorated landscape. From speakers mounted on the mural-coated barrier, a variety of sounds, including bird calls, play during the day. London said Disneyland was an inspiration for this technique.

“In preparation for the construction of the science building we visited Disneyland …to explore ways they build in the midst of their customer base” he said. One of the techniques utilized there, he explained, was the use of exactly these types of construction site walls. “The point is… to shield the work away from the public. We utilized this technique as a test in anticipation of the science building construction which will start in May 2011,” added London.

Ultimately, the final and more spacious layout will contain, according to London “ [the USF] bookstore, bathrooms, [an] art display area, Crossroads, soft seating, a fireplace, and…a video area.”

As for the University’s next major project: the building of the new Harney science wing. “The formal ground breaking is on December 10, with the actual work beginning in the latter part of May,” he said. Between groundbreaking this month and the start of major construction in May 2011, preliminary work will be ongoing during the spring 2011 semester.

Once Harney Plaza becomes a construction zone, it will not be a viable location for student gatherings. London said the plaza would be moved to the front of Gleeson Library to accommodate campus events.

On Dec. 7, London will make a presentation on the reconstruction at the ASUSF Senate meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held on the University Center’s fourth floor lounge.
Details on the first floor renovation, including floor plans and the contact information for the project manager, can be found on display boards adjacent to the entrances of the Crossroads student lounge.

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