The Daily Californian Online

Current design for Lower Sproul renovation exceeds given budget

By J.D. Morris
Monday, May 9, 2011
Category: News > Development and Capital Projects

With the renovation of Lower Sproul Plaza, the inner atrium of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union may look like this sketch.

As the exact design of the new Lower Sproul Plaza continues to form, an estimate of the cost for the current design is over budget by about $10 million.

The renovation project for the plaza is about halfway through its schematic design phase, which is scheduled to conclude by the end of the summer and will eventually produce a design that matches the budgeted construction cost of the project - about $90 million. And though an estimate by Langdon & Associates - a consultant to the project designers Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners - estimated the cost of what has been designed so far to be about $10 million over, Alyosha Verzhbinsky, consulting architect to the ASUC for the project, said that number has not been "finally verified" yet.

"A number has been produced, and now the design team is looking to understand whether that number includes all the scope numbers shown on the drawings - it's just the normal process of developing a cost estimate," Verzhbinsky said. "We are currently a little over budget but by how much is a little hard to determine."

The entire budget of the project is about $223 million and stems from a combination of contributions from the campus, the UC Office of the President and student fees approved by the passage of the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative in the 2010 ASUC General Election.

Currently, the actual construction of the project is slated to be completed in separate parts. Eshleman Hall - which will be completely rebuilt due to its seismically poor structure - is scheduled to undergo construction first after student groups now occupying the roughly 70,000 square feet of space inside the building are relocated to temporary "surge" spaces, which are still being determined and will likely require some preliminary maintenance themselves.

Construction on the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building and other renovations to the plaza are scheduled to begin subsequently, though Verzhbinsky said construction may be done all at once if it is determined to be a significant cost saving.

Additionally, Verzhbinsky said any reductions in the project will probably be approached holistically.

"What we're trying to avoid is saying 'okay, we're going to take one space from here, we're going to take another space from there, we're going to reduce all of these things and we're going to strip the building of its external materials, and bingo, we saved $20 million - we're happy,' ... because that results in a project that has no integrity," Verzhbinsky said.

Though the exact design of the new plaza is still preliminary, sketches shown in a presentation by Verzhbinsky at the May 4 ASUC Senate meeting portrayed a significantly modified plaza, redesigned with the hopes of improving its functionality and overall use by students.

Changes displayed in the presentation include an Eshleman Hall that is shorter and wider than the current building, as well as additions to the south and west sides of the student union and additional landscaping in the plaza itself.

"Entering the project, I didn't really have any idea of what it would look like, but I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to see, and with respect to that, it's exceeded all of my expectations," said Waleed Abed, the Lower Sproul communications coordinator for the Graduate Assembly. "It's going to be phenomenal."

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