The University of North Texas Union is almost vacated and ready for construction crews to completely reconfigure the student hub, as full construction on the building is set to begin the week of Oct. 7.
Preparation has been underway since April to relocate offices and services, which will be completed by October, said Don Lynch, director of system facilities and administration. The first phase of the relocation, which included moving services and getting temporary facilities completed, was finished before students returned to campus Wednesday.
“We have the majority of the occupants out of the union, but there are still a few left,” Lynch said. “They should be out by the end of the first week of October, but all of that was planned.”
The student affairs offices — including union administration, the dean of students and student activities — remain active in the old union building.
Fencing around the job sites is nearly complete to help redirect students and familiarize them with the construction areas before major work begins.
“There’s just a few gaps to allow access to the building to let students pass through the site for now,” Lynch said. “One reason why we had most of the construction fencing up prior to the first day was to prepare them for the fact that things are going to be changing. This allows them to ease into those changes.”
The redirection has already been effective in the first week, union director Zane Reif said, as there haven’t been a lot of students in the old union this semester.
Instead, they are finding their ways to new spaces — like Stovall Hall — for the services they need, and seeing that there are now additional areas to mimic a student union.
Students were, at first, apprehensive about the temporary spaces, said Zach Brown, Student Government Association president. The student government office is one of several union components now located in Stovall Hall, and he said that being in a smaller space next to lounge areas has been positive for the group.
“People love the new spaces just because it seems more like a working environment,” he said. “It’s only helped our outreach because when students go in that room to play at the pool tables or watch some TV, it comes to a point where you have to go through the SGA [temporary office].”
There has been some confusion on campus, though, as students try to navigate through the construction and find the services they need, said Jayleen Watson, who served as chairwoman of the union planning committee.
To combat this, the university has taken several measures to communicate the plans to students, Watson said, including sending blast e-mails, updating social media and handing out information at events such as Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony. On the fencing around project areas, large signs feature renderings of the project and tout information like “75 percent more auditorium and meeting space.”
However, some students on campus are still unclear about what is going on.
Matt Lucas, a junior who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, said he thought the project was great but was unsure of the details or project timeline.
“I’m excited for the students who get to enjoy it in the future, but I’m not excited that I have to watch it be built and suffer through this construction,” he said. “But that’s an unavoidable part of life — construction.”
For the most part, students understand the construction and what the end result will be and are excited, Brown said.
“We have one of the most flexible student bodies out there,” he said. “I feel like every student understands the end result is an immaculate, state-of-the-art building. And people are saying no matter what process we have to do to get that building — and obviously this is a bit of a transition period — our students are completely OK with it.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.