UMass eyes Student Union building renovations   

  • UMass students wait in line to purchase items at the New2U Tag Sale on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2017, at the Student Union building in Amherst. The building is now slated for renovation, the university’s Student Government Association announced on Monday. Gazette file photo

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

AMHERST — The 60-year-old Student Union building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is set for a face-lift that could cost as much as $50 million.

Student Government Association officials announced on Monday plans for renovations to the Student Union building, which houses student organizations, a student lounge and several student businesses. Among the possible funding sources for the improvements is a $100 student fee.

The announcement is more than a year in the works after students and university administrators formed a Student Union task force in the summer of 2016 to begin looking into the future of the building, which opened in 1957.

“It’s really kind of a lacking building, an old tired building that really isn’t currently meeting the needs of the student body and the student organizations we have here at UMass,” Anthony Vitale, the SGA president, said. 

Vitale said that beginning last summer, student government membership and officials from around campus began meeting to come up with a plan for changes to the Student Union building. 

That task force decided to hire the design firm CannonDesign to look into student activities space on campus, and the firm eventually produced a Student Union renovation study, which is what is now being used for renovation plans going forward. The task force has solicited bids from architectural and design firms for those renovations, and will review the proposals.

Vitale said the renovations will cost around $40 million or $50 million and that the university will fund around half of that amount. To cover the other half of the cost, student government is looking at several options, including a possible vote on the student fee of around $100 per student, per year, beginning in 2020.

“I think we’re definitely going to have to make the case,” Vitale said when asked whether he expected any pushback from students on the fee proposal. “We do know that a new and improved building will have a huge impact on the majority of students.”

There are more than 300 registered student organizations — or RSOs — on campus, and a large majority of students belong to one, according to Vitale. They would benefit from the renovations, he said, as would the student businesses and other groups and agencies that operate out of the building.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.