An extreme makeover — a real one, not the one on television — is on the way to MU. This makeover will not be a surprise or be completed in a week, and a host will not be there to guide students.
But it will be extreme.
The subject of the makeover is Brady Commons, one of MU’s main hubs of student activity. Right now, it is 123,031 gross square feet. It has a market, a five-booth food court that makes 2,400 transactions a day, a dining room that seats 448, a walkway that lends itself to socializing and a basement that houses student organizations and a corner game room.
Sounds big — until you consider it’s the family room for 26,000 students and 450 organizations.
Back in 1963, Brady Commons was completed to meet the needs of 15,000 students. In the 1980s, it was remodeled and a new wing was added for student organizations and student life. In 1997, the bookstore was remodeled.
It is time for an overall improvement, said John Andersen, co-chairman of the student communications committee for the Missouri Students Association. “We want a place for students to watch TV, study, eat,” Andersen said.
When Missouri Union conducted a survey last year, about 5,000 students were asked how well Brady Commons “met your image of an ideal student center.” They answered with an average grade of 51.6 percent, or “F.” Students said they wanted more dining options and seating, spacious study areas and relaxing lounges, access to improved technology, a light and open environment, programming and social space and outdoor seating.
Architects have proposed ideas to meet these desires and have suggested at least doubling the dining area and quadrupling the amount of lounge space.
Mackey Mitchell Associates in St. Louis is the leading architect on the project. The firm is working with design architects from Holzman Moss Architecture based in New York. Separately, they have worked on student centers at St. Louis University, Washington University, Texas Tech and the University of Otago in New Zealand. Representatives from both companies were on campus Thursday to listen to students’ input on possible designs.
What Douglas Moss of Holzman Moss found most impressive with MU students is how “all the students have an interest in other activities outside school work.” He cited their interest in including a music lounge as a way to keep the center “alive 24 hours.”
A main concern among students is how much they will have to pitch in toward the cost of the new center. Campus Dining Services and Student Auxiliary Services will provide roughly half of the money, according to Anderson and a Web site dedicated to a student center, www.mustudent center.com. The other half will come from students.
They will decide the amount they will contribute through a referendum vote planned for April. The increase will be added to a student activity fee. However, according to the Web site and to discussion at the meeting, the fee will not be added until some of the new building is available for student use, which will be at least three years. The final cost of the project depends on how much students are willing to pay.
After the referendum vote, planning will begin based on student feedback and will last for about a year, according to the architects, Anderson and the center’s Web site. Additions, demolition and reconstruction will ideally take another four years to complete.
Although Andersen said, “Brady will stay open through construction, in some capacity,” Moss saw this as the biggest complication builders would face. The current plan is to begin construction on an addition at Hitt and Rollins streets where there is a parking lot. When that can be opened to students, the current commons will be reconstructed.
“I hope they don’t make it too modern, because it will be dated,” said graduate student Breck Gamel, who works in the Wellness Center in the basement of Brady. “It should be classy and traditional with cool and fresh.”