Work begins today on a €15m one-stop shop for most student services in an extension to one of University College Cork’s oldest buildings.
The six-storey student hub will put facilities for the students union, clubs and societies officers, the Campus Radio station, and other student-led activities in one location on the campus for the first time.
Other services, including those supporting students with disabilities and mature students, will also be relocated. In addition, modern teaching facilities will allow students from different disciplines across UCC schools and departments to work together in new technology- enriched spaces.
Following planning approval granted by Cork City Council in May, preliminary work on the site to get under way today will require the removal of extensions to the back of the Windle Building.
Built in the 1860s, it stands parallel to the west wing of UCC’s main quadrangle building, and work will also be done to ensure its safe conservation during the project
The new extension is being built at the other side of the Windle Building, close to UCC’s science building. The space between the Windle Building and the quadrangle building will become a new pedestrian zone, requiring the removal of car parking and restrictions on through traffic.
The 2,400sq m extension will see four upper floors rising out of two ground floors being built to the west of the Windle Building, which is also being refurbished.
The student hub has been designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey architects. Construction is scheduled to begin next January with a target date to open in May 2018.
The largest of five spaces in the resultant 3,800sq m student hub will be the relocated student-led activities. The others will be a one-stop shop welcome zone, teaching and learning zones, an employability and development zone, and student success centre.
“By bringing together previously dispersed services and unconnected activities and programmes, the student hub will provide new spaces to support our students in a more efficient and effective manner,” said UCC’s acting head of student experience, Dr Michael Byrne.
He said it would also significantly increase opportunities for students to take part in activities that impact on helping students stay on at college and their employability.
The works are being funded by a loan from the European Investment Bank, which has supported capital projects at a number of Irish universities in recent years.
The repayments over 23 years will be strongly assisted by part of student fees set aside for the project, following a pattern used in the past to help finance the Mardyke Arena sports facility and the Áras na Mac Léinn student centre.
Some services like chaplaincy, student health, and counselling are not relocating, and Mr Byrne said decisions about uses of vacated buildings would be made over the next two years as the project nears completion.
The university may face a challenge in handling parking issues, due to the loss of 78 parking spaces on campus.
The college withdrew plans to provide 30 additional spaces at a small riverside car park near the Western Road side of the campus after concerns from the city council with that aspect of the original planning application last December.
The planning conditions attached to permission for the project in May include a requirement for a piece of contemporary art.
As part of efforts to improve efficiency and student access to academic administrative services, a parallel project is under way to improve online access for students to various services, such as academic affairs, fees, and other facilities.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved