MU renovation starts with east wing moves

Photos (2): Artist's renderings of Memorial Union's north side and atrium
The Memorial Union's north side is getting a new look — and an atrium.

Updated 3 p.m. Jan. 21: When the renovated Coffee House opened in 2010, it was almost too popular. Students liked the open layout so much, they would study at dining tables for hours, instead of using some of the other lounges in the Memorial Union.

So, Campus Recreation and Unions has embarked on an 18-month, $23.5 million renovation to modernize the campus’s aging main student center with a feel more like the CoHo, the Student Community Center and the front part of the ARC.

Funding for the project will be taken from reserves and financed through the existing Memorial Union bond.

The north side of the Memorial Union will expand slightly, interior walls will come down, the bookstore will get a facelift and more room for textbooks, the campus Veterans Affairs office will get a new space and seismic upgrades will be made.

“The MU is UC Davis’ iconic student center,” said Matt Fucile, director of Building Services with Campus Recreation and Unions. “Its prominence to campus is huge, (but) it’s a relic that doesn’t really vibe with what our students are looking for in social spaces.”

Campus officials planned the project by holding monthly meetings with students, faculty and staff.

One of the first noticeable changes is the relocation of the post office and Campus Copies to a portable building adjacent to Wickson Hall, west of the Memorial Union. The CoHo-to-Go has closed, while the nearby Corral convenience store will remain open for one more quarter. See chart below for all the logistics.

In March, construction will begin in earnest and the first and second floors of the union — not including the east wing or CoHo — will be closed, along with the north courtyard.

The MU’s north wall not only be pushed out but straightened, eliminating the angle that came with an addition in the 1990s. Inside, an atrium will be created with the top floor overlooking the first level, similar to the Student Community Center.

Also in March, textbook sales will move from the basement to a temporary location in The Pavilion, and the bookstore’s general merchandise will move to the east wing of the Memorial Union.

When construction begins on the bookstore, it will also necessitate closure of the bowling alley and games area in the basement. Three bowling lanes will be removed to allow more space for textbooks, and the coin-operated arcade games will be replaced by console games and a lounge area.

“The arcade games are terribly underutilized,” Fucile said.

The bookstore is scheduled to be finished in late 2015, and will reopen in early 2016, after books and other merchandise have been moved back.

Construction on the rest of the Memorial Union will continue until October 2016, at which time the remaining areas and the games basement will reopen.

Back to the building's original style

The union was much more open when it was built in 1955, said Greg Secor, senior project manager with Design and Construction Management. Then, in an early ‘90s renovation, rooms were cordoned off, creating small lounges that he likened to a quiet library instead of an open space where students can work together.

“How students study now is very different than the model that it was designed on,” Secor said.

The remodel will take the Memorial Union back to the intent of the original design, and reemphasize a fact that not everyone knows: that the building is a memorial to UC Davis students who died while serving in the military.

Today, the names of 135 fallen Aggies are engaved on a wall next to the fireplace in Griffin Lounge. In the MU renovation, the fireplace will be removed and the memorial relocated and redesigned — complete with a computer screen for display of the Golden Memory Book, which has a page for each of the fallen Aggies. The original book will also be displayed.

What happens to...
Bookstore – textbook sales Moving to temporary location in The Pavilion from end of winter quarter until early 2016
Bookstore – general merchandise Moving to temporary location in east wing from end of winter quarter until early 2016
Memorial Union basement Closed during construction
Memorial Union – 1st and 2nd floors Closed during construction
Memorial Union – east wing Most areas closed during construction, but will house temporary location for bookstore’s general merchandise until early 2016
Memorial Union – north courtyard Closed during construction
Classical Notes / Campus Copies Moved to temporary location in trailer on the east side of Wickson Hall
Post office Moved to temporary location in trailer on the east side of Wickson Hall, scheduled to reopen partway through the week of Jan. 26.
CoHo-to-Go Closed permanently; it and the Corral will be replaced by a single convenience store
Corral Closes permanently at the end of winter quarter; it and the CoHo-to-Go will be replaced by a single convenience store
Aggie Reuse, Project Compost, Campus Center for the Environment, Whole Earth Festival, Experimental College Moved to Bike Barn
AggieCard Office Remains open, but will relocate Dutton Hall during construction
Tech Hub Remains open, but may be closed briefly over summer
CoHo No changes – not part of project
Memorial Union tower – 3rd and 4th floors No changes – not part of project


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Cody Kitaura/Dateline, Dateline, 530-752-1932,

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