This summer, several construction projects have started on the University of Kansas’ Lawrence campus. Stauffer-Flint Hall, the Daisy Hill Commons, Jayhawk Boulevard and the Kansas Memorial Union are all currently under various stages of construction.
The Union alone is facing several projects: phase two of the plaza’s reconstruction, the final phase of the restoration of Jayhawk Boulevard and the addition of a Chick-fil-A.
The plaza is being reconstructed because of issues concerning drainage and accessibility. The bricks were slick when rain and ice hit, and the slope was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Lisa Kring, the Union’s director of building and event services.
Gary Mohr, the engineers' project manager for the University's Facilities Planning and Development office, said that retaining walls had to be used to correct the slope issues, but this allowed for seat walls and the new bronze Jayhawk statues added to the plaza in the spring.
According to Kring, this reconstruction is for both beautification and functionality.
“As the plaza becomes a more attractive place to be, it becomes a more functional place to be,” Kring said. “We also hope with the landscaping that you’ve got some greenery and perhaps some shade as those trees get bigger to create a sense of place.”
Mohr said the fourth phase of the Jayhawk Boulevard project was so extensive that it could not be completed in one summer’s allotted time frame, so this construction is actually a part of phase 4B.
Phase 4A was completed last summer.
According to Mohr, Phase 4B includes not only the reconstruction of the plaza and parking lot 16 across the street from the Union, but also the replacement and repair of underground utilities, landscaping and reconstruction of the street and sidewalks.
The updated street will include new bus stops with seat walls, better drainage systems, additional safety, energy-efficient lighting and the final part of the tree canopy that is being re-established on Jayhawk Boulevard’s sidewalks.
The recent severe weather has not affected the time frame, Kring said, and the projects are still set to be completed by Aug. 1.
The construction is creating road closures between 14th Street and the entrance to the Mississippi Street parking garage, which means the Union has had to adapt with the construction, although it is still open and orientation is proceeding as planned.
Visitors for orientation are entering the building from the parking garage, and bus traffic is being rerouted to Mississippi Street, Kring said.
"The road construction in the summer affects things," Kring said. "Our orientation partners in First Year Experience have done a lot of work to ensure that parents, significant others and students can all find orientation."
Mohr said that the Facilities Planning and Development office is trying to help lessen the construction’s impact on the Union.
“There has been some disturbance, confusion and, I’m sure, frustration for people trying to get to and from the Union and surrounding buildings at times, but for the most part, affected parties have been cooperative and understanding,” Mohr said.
Though the outside of the building is currently receiving the most noticeable changes, the inside of the building is under construction for the highly-anticipated Chick-fil-A.
The University already had a Chick-fil-A in the Underground, but the University was contractually obligated to expand the location. Creating a new restaurant was a simpler, cost-effective solution, because expanding the current location would have cost approximately $3 million. Creating the new location will cost around $500,000, according to Kring.
“By moving to the Kansas Union, we can expand the menu even further,” Kring said. “It’s a significant dollar savings to meet a contractual obligation. It also reduces what is already a tremendous amount of pressure on the seating at Wescoe.”
This project began in April, before classes ended, and is expected to end in mid-July.
There are also projects at the Union that haven’t begun. In mid-July, there will be masonry repairs to the south wall. This project was supposed to begin earlier this summer, however the extensive construction nearby made it difficult to get a crew in, Kring said.
After the completion of the Jayhawk Boulevard project on Aug. 1, repairs to the archway in the north entrance to the Union will commence. This project is set to end on Oct. 18, shortly before homecoming weekend.