Coffman renovation under way, scheduled to open doors fall 2002

Brad Ellingson

With a new look and more places for students to study and hang out, Coffman Memorial Union is projected to reopen in fall 2002.

After several months of discussion and a new $71 million budget approved in spring 2001 by the Board of Regents, construction began when Ryan Companies of Minneapolis was hired.

“Students have been the driving force of the renovation,” said Kristen Moore, president of Twin Cities Student Unions.

“We really want this building to be a place where students will want to spend their time,” she said.

The revised $71 million budget is $21 million more than the
original budget, University officials said.

“We redesigned as far down as possible in order to get as close to the budget as possible,” said Eric Kruse, vice president for university services.

Of the $21 million, $12.5 million will come from tenants and $13.5 million will come from the University and Coffman Reserves, University officials said.

The University’s main goal is to make Coffman more aesthetically pleasing to students.

Right now wind blows through broken windows and muddied floors are filled to capacity with construction supplies – reminders of the work that lies ahead.

“It’s been a real challenge for the architects and structural engineers,” said Tom Sahlmen, senior superintendent of Ryan Companies.

“We’re bringing it up to today’s standards to meet all the modern-day codes.”

Some new features include a 24-hour computer lab, a 40,000 square foot bookstore and more food options for students – services most needed by students, according to research.

“In 1998 we did a stratified
survey on campus … and asked for feedback about what services students wanted in the Union,” said Karen Lyons, TCSU marketing director.

“At the time it came back, of the top 10 things that they wanted, we only had three of them, so it was pretty clear we weren’t providing the services that students wanted.”

The Coffman bookstore will take the place of the West Bank, Williamson, and Health-Sciences bookstores, said Maggie Towle, director of TCSU Board of Governors.

In addition, Towle said Coffman will feature more natural light – with floor-to-ceiling glass on the south side of the building.

The four-story-high glass will face the Mississippi River.

Coffman will make up part of the area University officials call the “South Mall.”

The South Mall will include a parking garage to replace the East River Road ramp, residence halls, and a public green space – connecting Coffman to East River Road and the Mississippi River.

Still included from the old budget, student fees will account for $37.5 million, and $7.5 million will come from post-renovation revenues.

The Student Services Fee Committee will increase fees for students in a four-year “phased-in” approach, University officials said.

In 2001-02, students will pay $85 toward the renovation for the year.

It will increase to $95.50 in 2002-03. After 2003, students will pay $91 per year until around 2021.

While students might be looking for places to study these days, those enrolled at the University in the future will have a state-of-the-art facility to congregate.

“Students need a place to gather,” Moore said.