On the evening of Monday, October 3rd, a forum about the New South Student Center took place in the Leavey Programming Room. The forum, which primarily featured a presentation by SmithGroup architect Bill Ash, focused on the “feasibility study” of the NSSC, rather than specific design and details, which remain works-in-progress.
Ash noted that the skeleton of the space’s architecture is in a pretty good state, although there will be miscellaneous necessary repairs over the next few years.. There will be quite a bit of demolition involved as well, as the majority of the interior of the ground floor is old and abandoned, and some of the finishes from the old dining hall are still there. The goal is to re-imagine New South by making full use of the enormous amount of space available on the ground level, and to restructure it to better make use of all of its space. As proposed, the NSSC will be accessible all the time.
The scope of the program, which consists of three plans, was presented in the forum. The lower level’s existing conference room will be converted into a loading dock, along with a storage area that will contain a variety of flexible furniture for student use. The over 3,000 square feet of ground level will house a sizable food-service venue, which will differ from places like Hoya Court and Epicurean in that it will be a club-like setting, which will conduce to students’ exiting after having a brief meal. The details as to whether the area will consist of a restaurant, a student-run venue, a pub, or a bar are, for the most part, undecided.
“A lot of that is still being defined, but the administration is seriously interested in pursuing serving alcohol in that space,” Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said at the forum. “I don’t want it to be a place just about maximizing profit and pouring hard liquor day and night. There is serious interest on exploring a venue that serves alcohol, but also that not being the one single overarching goal of it.”
There are also plans for a “multi-purpose social space,” which would consist of a large, single room with the capacity for 200-300 students, which could be easily divided into two distinct spaces. This room will likely contain a variety of equipment, including portable stages and A/V projection screens, so that it could easily function as a performance space for musicians on campus, among other possibilities. Other potential functions of the NSSC include “a new riverside lounge,” which would include study space, a catering kitchen, a coffee shop, and a space for recreation and gaming.
Based on parameters presented in the report, The projected cost of this program is approximately $15.5 million—however, the project as of yet is not entirely funded. The program will now aggressively enter into its intensive 9-month fundraising campaign, so that actual construction can begin in May 2013, and the Center can open by August 2014. Olson, however, made clear that these dates are not meant to be promises.
“This is what we hope, we like, an aggressive goal that we may or may not achieve,” he said.
The setting of the forum was cordial, and conduced to dialogue between architects, Georgetown University Student Association leaders, and students. Ash noted that past student forums have been much more unilateral, but ensured that student input will be invaluable once the design phase of the project begins. Possible brainstorming for add-ons to the space include fireplaces, redoing of the upper floor’s piano rooms and lobby, and a skylight.
Regarding the prospect of removing existing facilities, Ash noted that in the short term, there is no solution. It is largely expected that student organizations’s offices and workspaces will remain in the Leavey Center, where more space will be available after the NSSC’s construction.
GUSA Senator Tyler Sax (COL’13) noted during the forum that so far, the process has been cordial and uneventful.
“We’ve helped craft how they’ve gotten this far. There have been discussions over the summer, there’s already been a lot of student input,” he said. “The relationship with the architects have been very cordial, they’ve been ready to work with us.” When asked about the Healy Pub proposal, Sax noted that “Healey was one idea for spending the endowment money, but the conclusion was that it was too expensive to build in Healey, and the University kind of sees that as the new academic center of campus. It didn’t really fit with their vision to have a pub or a restaurant there.”
“I think it’s a great idea” noted fellow GUSA representative Sheila Walsh (COL’14). “There’s so much transparency, they’re willing to take questions directly from students, so I was very appreciative. It was a bit disappointing that not many people turned out, but I think it’s definitely great that everyone has the ability to come and give input. So far as the design is concerned, I was very satisfied.”
Below is a slideshow of the plans unveiled at the forum:
All photos by Tim Markatos.