A year ago, Martha Blood, director of Lory Student Center, was standing in the ruin that once had been the lower level of the student center. Shining a flashlight beam around, she caught traces of the high-water mark the flood left a few inches from the ceiling. Unidentifiable piles of rubble moldered in dark corners, and on one side of a corridor a Pepsi machine had smashed through the wall of what once had been the Office of Community Services.
But now the lower floor is well on the way to a new life. "Overall, the renovation project has moved forward with lightning speed," Blood said. "We managed to compress about five years of planning and construction into 15 months."
The bookstore, which opened for business in January, features new merchandise areas with enlarged textbook sections. Ten windows along the south wall face onto a long, curving hallway and will be used for textbook buy-back and, in the interim, display cases.
In addition, a new ground level entrance at the northeast end of the building will provide better access to the building. Walls that prevented access from one end of the lower level to the other – and which blocked natural light – have been removed, and the layout now feels more open and inviting, Blood said.
In all, construction cost for the student center’s lower level has run about $7.6 million with an additional $4 million for fixtures, furniture and equipment, Blood said. When the dust settles, about 107,000 square feet will have been renovated.
"We’re incorporating architectural features such as lighter colors, floor patterns, display cases and curved walls to make the lower level feel more playful and less like a basement," she said.
Offices for the Outdoor Adventure Program and the Challenge Ropes Course opened in June on the north end of the lower level. More square footage was added than had previously existed when the space housed KCSU-FM, the student radio station.
Staff members of the Office of Community Services also have been busy setting up computers and other material in their new offices on the north end, and the bike shop, formerly near the west entrance, now is operating adjacent to the Outdoor Adventure Program. Centre Cafe, a coffee and sandwich shop, will open in August near the new entryway on the northeast side.
Overall, the renovation project has moved forward with lightning speed, Blood said.
"If we had anticipated renovating such a large space, it would have taken about two years to plan and an additional three years to complete," Blood said. "This project was compacted into 15 months."
The remaining construction will run in three phases. The first phase, scheduled for completion near the beginning of fall semester, will include offices for about 40 student organizations in addition to a copy center, mail packaging business and offices for Off-Campus Student Services and Resources for Adult Learners. The second phase, which will be completed about three weeks later, will add 1,500 square feet more to the student media offices, including CTV, KCSU-FM and the Rocky Mountain Collegian. The third phase, scheduled for completion at the end of the semester, will include a commons area, lounge, recreation facilities, restaurants, a convenience store and a new west entrance.
A Subway shop and the Ramskeller, a popular gathering spot for students, will return close to their original locations on the west side of the building. A new Sbarro’s restaurant will be added in the area along with the convenience store, which will offer late-night service.
"Nature gave us a blank slate, and we’re making the best of it," Blood said. "It’s exciting to see all this construction and activity, but it’s going to be even more exciting to see the project come to a close."