Students will notice a new look to the basement of the Central Academic Building (CAB) once renovations are complete in August 2019.
The renovations focus on addressing the building’s deferred maintenance and improving the student experience. The project, which started during winter reading week, will be completed by the end of August in time for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The food vendors in the lower level will be open until the end of the winter semester, and the university plans to close the space completely at the end of the term to do construction work over the summer. On the main floor, Tim Hortons and Panda Express will remain open during the summer while the basement is closed.
Lindsay Munn-Price, manager of capital projects for facilities and operations, said the renovations will address the deferred maintenance in the building, such as lighting, mechanical, and electrical elements. They also hope to enhance the student space by increasing the openness, improving seating, and providing amenities such as a kitchen-like area under the staircase with microwaves and vending machines. Overall, Munn-Price said they hope to move away from the cafeteria-style seating, and “refresh” the lower level.
“[The goal is] creating a space that students can gather, they can do their work, they can grab something to eat, socialize in, as well as for staff and visitors to campus,” she said.
There are also plans for a new “social” staircase to be built on the south side — where Panda Express is on the upper level — where students can sit, which will replace the current staircase on the north side.
“We’re doing a complete refresh and rethink of how students use the spaces, so a mix of soft seating, tables, higher chairs, lower [chairs], so really rethinking how seating is done down there,” Munn-Price said.
Munn-Price said the cost of the project cannot be released at this time, however previous announcements quote the entire renovation cost of main and basement CAB at $2.2 million. The project funding is a collaboration between the university and ancillary services.
Emma Ripka, Students’ Union vice-president (operations and finance) said she’s heard concerns about the basement relating to lighting and ventilation, as well as uncomfortable seating. She said she hopes the space becomes more user-friendly, and offers a study area that is ergonomically designed for studying.
Ripka also hopes the university uphold their promise for food accommodation, she added.
“Hopefully the renovations make it more accessible and more comfortable for students,” Ripka said.
In an email, Dolores March, director of hospitality services for ancillary services, said a survey was given in 2016 asking about what dining options students wanted to see, when they use the space, and what they thought of the current food options. The survey received almost 700 responses and was used as a part of the design process for the lower level renovations, along with other reports.
Ultimately, Munn-Price said the renovation’s aims for the entire space is to move towards a more “living room” feel.
“[We want to] take both the opportunity to address the deferred maintenance on it as well as have the opportunity to do a refresh of that lower level and really make an inviting space,” she said.