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A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT CAMPUS CENTER CONSTRUCTION

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The 55,000-square-foot western addition to the University at Albany Campus Center is taking shape and proceeding on schedule, a campus official said. On a recent tour of the construction site Scott Birge, Campus Center management director, expressed confidence that the addition would be complete by the start of the spring semester.

“We’re not behind schedule. Yet.” Birge said.

Though much of the site appears unchanged since the end of last semester, a great deal of progress has been made to the project’s interior. Kitchens serving three new retail dining venues are virtually complete. An outpost of “Tully’s,” a Syracuse-based sports bar chain, and a new Asian fusion restaurant from Food Network personality Mai Pham are rumored to be among the center’s new tenants. A Starbucks is also planned for the location.

In addition to revamped and expanded dining options, the west addition will have new office space for a variety of campus groups including the Student Association and the Multicultural Resource Center. Though earlier plans for the campus center included a full gym, the completed center will have a “movement studio” suitable for yoga, Pilates and dance. Perhaps the most significant and dramatic addition to the new campus center will be state-of-the art multipurpose auditorium that can accommodate 400 people.

Though the addition will feature a variety of airy spaces for students to work and congregate there appears to be one glaring deficiency in the new building. On the critically important issue of ample power outlets, Birge admitted there might not be enough to meet the needs of students. “I think we’ve done a really good job of meeting the needs of three to four years ago,” Birge said.

One of the least visually appealing components of the construction has been the demolition of the Science Library courtyard. The courtyard, which had a fountain and planted trees was reduced to a pile of rubble almost as soon as construction began. Jay Baumstein, the campus construction manager, admitted that the space had been an eyesore for too long but that delays arose after leaks were discovered in the fountain. He gave assurances that a new fountain and planters would be installed as well as movable furniture in order to create a “patio atmosphere.”

While the west addition is supposed to be completed by spring, Birge rejected the idea that its completion would signal something approaching a “finished campus.” The campus center west construction is only part of larger, campus-wide renewal plan.

When might this renewal be complete?

“We’re hoping to have homeostasis in ten to 15 years,” Birge said.

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