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SARASOTA, Fla. (May 11, 2016) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is breaking ground this summer on a $1.6 million Student Commons area where students can study, exercise or simply relax and socialize as part of an effort to create a richer campus life.
When complete this fall, the area will feature a lounge with new furniture and amenities, including a gaming area, new television monitors, a coffee bar, study carrels, a pool table and foosball and ping pong tables.
Twice as large as the current space, the lounge will include outdoor access and spill into Jonathan’s Café, extending from Jonathan’s to the building’s “mini rotunda.” Additionally, the fitness area will be expanded into a larger space to allow for more workout equipment and new restrooms and lockers. Student government will gain a new conference room as well.
Preparations to refashion the first-floor, 6,900-square-foot space started a week ago with demolition and the installation of construction barriers.
“This will definitely help us as we move forward and try to build a student-centric culture on campus,” student body President Alex Benishek said of the work, which will run through the summer.
Students are funding the project on their own through Capital Improvement Trust Funds and Student Activity and Service Fees amassed over several years.
“By spending this money in this way it shows the university can grow as the student population grows,” Benishek said.
The idea for the improvements arose a year and a half ago during a meeting between Student Government and USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone.
With plans for a Student Union still years from fruition, Dr. Stone suggested retrofitting the first-floor space at the campus’ north end to create a robust recreation and social gathering space. Student Government surveyed students on how best to retrofit the area and found consensus around Dr. Stone’s idea.
“This really is student-driven,” said Rick Lyttle, director of Facilities Planning & Management at USFSM. “Students were involved in every aspect of the design. It’s also part of our strategic plan to repurpose our building for enhanced student use.”
The sides worked with architectural firm Harvard Jolly Inc. to develop a final draft.
During construction, the copy center and Student Government offices will relocate to a trailer outside the building. The lounge and fitness area will be closed. Jonathans will remain open, although it could experience intermittent interruptions.
The entire project will run three and a half months. Construction barricades for the work were put into place May 4. Demolition is expected to be completed this week.
“The idea behind this was to make sure students have a space to thrive in, not only academically but also socially,” Benishek said. “To be successful in college, in the university setting, you have to have spaces to socialize in. By expanding the Student Commons area we are not only improving the lives of students here and now but into the future.”