Miami U preps for $23M addition to student center

The new part of the student center will feature a gaming and food stop, a coffee shop, a new career services location, retail shops and more space for student organizations.

Under the plan, one of the school’s old, academic buildings, Culler Hall, will be remodeled and connected to the current Armstrong Student Center. The first phase of the $53.1 million student center was unveiled to students last year.

The university is aiming for a January or February start date on the second phase of construction, said Cody Powell, Miami’s associate vice president for facilities planning and operation. If started next February, the project should be on track for a July 2017 completion.

Powell said the new space for career services in the student center will help put the job search at the forefront of students’ minds. Currently, the school’s career services office is on the western side of campus, away from the college’s center.

“Our intent is that we offer a very prominent space, right in the eye of students so they’re constantly thinking about what’s next,” Powell said. “The space is more prominent, it really lends itself to putting our best foot forward for these businesses that are interviewing our students.”

Powell said university officials are still determining the kind of retail spaces that will be featured in the student center.

The project will be paid for using a mix of donor funds and students fees.

Students will not be charged any new students fees for the actual construction of the project, said Miami University Finance Director David Creamer. But, once the second phase opens up, the college will charge an additional $15 per semester for utility fees for the center.

The university is also trying to raise $6 million to help fund the project, which Creamer said the school is “reasonably close” to meeting. He said fundraising has been made up of mostly smaller donations.

Post-recession, rising construction costs have also inflated the project’s cost estimate in recent years, Creamer said. Last year, university officials estimated the project would cost $21.5 million. Today, that estimate sits closer to $23 million or $23.5 million, he said.

Cincinnati-based Messer Construction has been hired as the construction manager for the job.

But Miami’s trustees still need to approve the plan, which could be done as earlier as September, Creamer said. The start date also hinges on the completion of a mostly state-funded $25 mllion renovation of Shideler Hall, which houses the school’s geography and geology departments. Those departments are using Culler Hall, the building that will be converted to the student center, until construction is finished this winter.

Miami’s renovations to its student center follow a string of construction projects at the Oxford-based college as well as other public colleges in Ohio.

Ohio State University opened up a $118.8 million student center in 2010 while Wright State University made $21.5 million in upgrades to its student center from 2002 to 2013.

Ohio’s public colleges have more than doubled their debt in recent years to roughly $6.5 billion because of new construction and renovations on campuses in recent years.

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