A finger-snap ago, Central District was nothing more robust than an artist’s rendering, a wish list, part of a master plan for what our beloved campus could one day be, how it should live and breathe and teach and embrace, for the next half-century or more.
Less than two years later—“We tried to build it as fast as we could,” said one project architect—and this thing is done.
Or, if not done, close to it, at least for now, and all those fears we might have silently nursed about too much, too soon? Park them. The newly christened Central District—40-plus acres of mostly empty or under-utilized space bordered by Allen Field House, Oliver Hall, 19th Street, Daisy Hill and Irving Hill Road—is suddenly a vibrant center of student life, faculty research and science education.
Read more in the cover feature of issue No. 4, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.
University architect Jim Modig, a,’73, and former University architect, Warren Corman, e’50, guide a tour of KU’s Central District. The Integrated Science Building is the focal point, but it’s joined by new student housing, parking, a new Burge Union, and a utility plant.
Watch a two-minute timelapse video of the Central District under construction.
A crowd-sourced fundraiser to bring KU’s historically black Greek life organizations a space of their own recently reached its goal.
After more than $50,000 was raised, the Divine Nine Plaza will be created. The plaza will honor the history of the organizations and give its student members and alumni a place to come together.
The “Divine Nine” is a nickname for a group of nine historically black fraternities and sororities, led by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC. The plaza will celebrate the organization’s history with a monument for each of the nine sororities and fraternities and a marker depicting the story of NPHC.
Darius Jones, coordinator for KU’s fraternity and sorority Life, oversaw the project, which was funded on LaunchKU. The crowdfunding initiative of KU Endowment helps raise funds for projects and passions that benefit the KU community.
“My students informed me this idea has been discussed in previous years, but it never lifted off the ground,” Jones said. “When it was brought to my attention, my NPHC president at the time, Tyler Allen, wanted to know how we could make this happen. Student Senate’s Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Abdoulie Njai, also liked the idea of supporting NPHC with this initiative.”
Plans call for the plaza to be located in KU’s new Central District, between the Burge Student Union and the Integrated Sciences building. Construction is expected to begin soon.
The plaza will also bring greater visibility to the NPHC organizations.
“When people think of Greek life, they often automatically associate it with a house or a facility,” Jones said. “Having a physical presence on campus with these monuments will bring more awareness of our historically black Greek-lettered organizations. With this increased visibility, it is my hope it will help our community grow.”
Jones credits a variety of groups for helping make the project possible. KU’s Office of Student Affairs, including Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, and Jane Tuttle, associate vice provost, strongly supported the campaign. KU Endowment staff created the LaunchKU page and collaborated on the plaza.
“I’m extremely thankful for my NPHC students,” said Jones. “This was their vision they advocated for, and without that none of this would have happened. Lastly, I want to thank all of the donors and supporters of the campaign. We could not have surpassed our goal without the tremendous amount of support.”
For more on the Divine Nine Plaza fundraising project, check out the campaign’s page on launchku.org.
Another step in the evolution of the Central District at the University of Kansas is now complete. On the site of the old Burge Union, which opened in 1979, sits a brand-new building: a new Burge that can host events of any size and adds accommodations that make KU a more welcoming, inclusive campus.
“The big goal was to have a flexible conference space,” said JJ O’Toole-Curran, senior associate director at KU Memorial Union. “Student Senate wanted to have offices for student services, and the union wanted a flexible conference space with a large kitchen downstairs to serve as the catering hub for this side of campus.”
The focus on inclusivity continued with the additions of a lactation room and a Wudu/Ablution room. Reflection rooms for meditation or prayer by students of all faiths are also available.
“These facilities were important to Student Senate to make our campus more accessible for our students,” said Sharon Leatherman, assistant director of building and event services. “Very few unions have everything we have here.”
The Forum, with a Skyfold wall down.
The Burge Union’s central room is the Forum, the largest single-function room in Lawrence with over 10,800 square feet. For comparison, the Kansas Union ballroom is 7,000 square feet.
The room can be divided into four separate rooms with Skyfold soundproof walls that unfold from the ceiling. Student groups can reserve facilities for free, with reduced rates available for staff and faculty.
A Roasterie Coffee and Hawk Shop convenience store sells grab-and-go food for students.
A seating area in the main entrance offers a view of Allen Fieldhouse.
A “Quiet Zone,” where students can study in total silence.
Study pods, recently added in the Kansas Union as well, line the windows in a hallway.
The newest major addition to the University of Kansas campus connects the department of geology with the School of Engineering, the Central District with the North District, and today’s students with their careers of tomorrow.
The Earth, Energy, & Environment Center, or EEEC, is composed of two new buildings, Slawson Hall and Ritchie Hall. We took a tour of the new buildings to see how a fully integrated building provides new strategies for education. Dr. Robert Goldstein, associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics and special adviser for campus development, led our trip though the new facility.
The tour began in Slawson Hall, with a large atrium at the corner of Hoch Auditoria and Naismith. Visitors are greeted with the sight of a 45-foot-long sea monster—the Tylosaurus fossil replica—a mosasaur that lived where Kansas is today.
“Wherever there’s a little spot, a little niche available, we put in carpet and comfy chairs for students and faculty to use. We want to make sure students hang out and study here.”
“This is the core layout room. We store our samples of rock core from the subsurface here. We use the tables with skate wheels to move boxes of rocks around to study them under white lights and UV lights.”
“This is the engaged learning classroom. 18 80″ monitors, two big screens, whiteboards all the way around. 18 tables, each with their own ELMO video presenter and microphones. It promotes engaged learning where the students are busy working on projects, and the professor’s podium is in the middle of the room, not the end of the room. They’re the coach, just circulating around helping students.”
“Check out the pattern on the side of the building. It’s limestone at the bottom, terra cotta above. We went with different types of terra cotta panels to give it a more dynamic appearance. Rather than a random patchwork of panels, we decided on taking the geologic cross-section of Kansas, right down to Mount Oread, and use that as the inspiration of the patterns by superimposing it on the side of the building.”
“It’s truly interdisciplinary, it’s at that intersection of earth, energy, and environment. We’ve got engineers and scientists under the same roof. We have paleontologists studying particles of organic matter trapped in 3 billion year old rocks, with an environmentalist studying contaminated ground water next door.”
“We just opened, and students are immediately finding these comfortable places… You’ll find faculty members sitting and grading papers here instead of in their offices because it’s so nice.”
“Having a lot of light that comes in helps visibility everywhere. We get natural light both in the hallways, and in the labs and offices. We added transparency, so if you’re standing in the hallway, you can see into the labs and they can see you, and that’s designed to promote interaction. That’s what a modern building can do for you.”
For an expanded look at our tour, check out our Flickr album. More coverage, including videos, of the Earth, Energy and Environment Center is available here.
With move-in day fast approaching, the KU Memorial Union hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of KU’s newest dining option, South Dining Commons, on August 9.
Replacing Oliver Dining Hall, South Dining Commons is located at 18th and Naismith and is part of the Central District Plan. The 22,000 square-foot dining facility will primarily serve residents from Oliver and Downs residential halls, but is available for students, faculty, staff and the general public to enjoy.
Features of the facility include a variety of seating options, natural light from all directions, and the largest known game day flag presiding over the center. Director of KU Dining Mark Petrino described the dining hall as “a fun and unique design that will enhance the student experience for years to come.”
The facility houses 12 different food stations, offering a variety of options including Italian, Tex-Mex, homestyle, and the KYou zone, which offers vegan dishes and other options for dietary needs.
South Dining Commons will also have a grab-and-go grocery store, South Side, continuing the trend of offering quicker food options on campus, such as Jayhawk Grocer in Self Hall and the Studio Café in Hashinger Hall. A new commissary will also be hosted at South Dining Commons, where food will be stored and prepared for all KU Dining locations.
With a facility that feeds hundreds of students and distributes for thousands, a KU Dining’s large staff continues to grow. Over 200 employees are already on board, with around 150 of them students. Hiring will continue into the school year.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured Petrino; Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs; Sarah Waters, director of KU Housing; and Harneet Sanghera, KU Memorial Union Corporation Board President.
“I have no doubt that in two weeks time, we will have new and returning Jayhawks laughing, creating memories, and dining on the wonderful food here,” Sanghera said, and the ribbon gave way to a giant pair of scissors, officially welcoming all of KU inside.
The KU Alumni Association was invited to tour the new facility. Check out our pictures and video below:
A colossal building—280,000 square feet—and the largest KU expansion in nearly 100 years demanded a massive celebration. A measly groundbreaking simply would not do.
So KU leaders nixed the shovel-and-dirt ritual and thought bigger. To mark a milestone in construction of the Integrated Science Building, which will anchor the new Central District taking shape on the Lawrence campus, KU staged a “topping out” ceremony Nov. 10. Beneath a brilliant sun and cloudless blue sky, a giant crane hoisted the final beam atop the frame of the three-story building. The task concluded with a raucous “Rock Chalk!” plus plenty of cheers and cannon bursts of confetti.
About 500 guests attended the celebration, including 300 craftsmen and women currently working on various aspects of the Central District. As the event began, guests took turns signing the final beam before gathering for speeches and a barbecue buffet at long tables on the open-air first floor of the ISB. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little began by tracing the origins of the project from KU’s 2014 master plan. The plan put KU’s aspirations on paper, envisioning the Central District as “a new hub for education and research that would enable us to address urgent needs here at the University and position us for excellence in the years to come,” she said. “After years of hard work, that vision is becoming a reality.”
Jim Modig, University architect, told the crowd that the Integrated Science Building meets a longstanding need by providing a proper home for teaching and collaborative research in chemistry, medicinal chemistry, physics, molecular biosciences and related fields. The structure will include:
35 modular research labs
18 class labs
a 352-seat lecture hall
3 smaller classrooms
an open atrium
additional core labs and clean rooms
The atrium and other features of the building will showcase “science on display” with open corridors and large interior and exterior windows, Modig explained. The structure’s energy performance will be comparable to LEED Gold standards to support KU’s commitment to a sustainable environment.
Modig, a’73, also narrated a video flyover tour of the Central District. The district will include:
a new student union
student apartment complex
residence hall and dining facility
600-space parking garage
central utility plant
A walkway known as the Jayhawk Trail will connect the Central District to West Campus, and the area will include a plaza and green space, as well as playing fields between the student apartment complex and residence hall. The parking garage will open in early 2017, and the residence hall and dining facility will be completed in summer 2017. The remaining structures will be finished in 2018. During peak construction, about 600 craftsmen and women will work on the various projects.
A transformative project
After years of study, KU created a public-private partnership to launch the $350 million project. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the concept in late 2015, and construction began 10 months ago, following the demolition of McCollum residence hall, the Stouffer Place apartments and the Burge Union. The University established the nonprofit KU Campus Development Corporation, which collaborates with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate LLC to oversee development, construction, operations and maintenance of the district. Chief contractors for the project are Clark Construction and McCownGordon.
Gray-Little declared that the Central District will “fundamentally transform this university and the way we educate leaders and conduct research,” moving KU closer to its goal to become one of the nation’s premier public research universities. Ultimately, the Integrated Science Building is more than an immense building, she said: “Remember that this is not just about physical space. It is not about a building. It’s about the students, and the way that they will learn in this new space. It’s about our faculty and staff who will educate our students and who will make discoveries that improve our world.”
—Jennifer Jackson Sanner
Adorning the beam were the signatures of event guests, including construction workers, students, faculty and staff, and U.S. and KU flags. In keeping with tradition, two small trees atop the beam signify that no lives have been lost in the project, and they honor the natural resources used to build the structure.
Construction on the KU campus continues to roll along as the new school year approaches.
Repairs along Memorial Drive, along with new construction along Naismith Drive on the Earth, Energy and Environment Center building and the Central District development have kept crews busy and traffic redirected around campus all summer.
It’s summer in Lawrence, and that means construction projects galore both around town and on campus.
One big difference this summer: the Jayhawk Boulevard traffic gates are open. Typically, traffic is restricted on the street while classes are in session. For a look at all current road closures due to construction, click here.
Construction in KU’s Central District is well underway: the Stouffer Place apartment buildings have mostly been demolished, the Burge Union has been razed, and the former soccer and softball fields are long gone.
One building in the center of the district still remains largely untouched. Hilltop Child Development Center sits in the middle of the construction area, and its students and their parents are treated to an ever-changing landscape each day.
Last month, students experienced the construction up close with a special program hosted by Clark Construction. The children each received a goodie bag from Northern Safety & Industrial, complete with a hard hat, green safety vest, safety goggles, and a copy of the book “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.” They also listened as the workers showed off the equipment and explained how they use it.
The photo below shows what the area north of Hilltop looks like at the moment. Eventually, a new parking garage and other new buildings will be built in this space.
After officially closing in March, demolition on the Burge Union began early this morning. In order to make room for KU’s Central District project and better-serve students, the Union will be rebuilt in hopes of adding offices for student-serving organizations, a reflection room for students of all faiths, ballroom and lounge space.