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Chancellor considers Davies redesign

The Davies Center Redevelopment Steering Committee and project architects have been directed to develop new plans to preserve the site of the Historic Council Oak tree, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said.

Levin-Stankevich announced his plans to request new options for the center’s design during a University Senate meeting Tuesday. The decision came the same night that the Eau Claire City Council approved the site plan for the original building.

The tree marks a location of truce between the Ojibwe and Dakota tribes and also allowed a place to parley, according to a Council Oak Tree Chronology provided to University Senate. In 1966, former professor Kenneth Campbell designed a new logo for UW-Eau Claire featuring the Council Oak in full height, according to the chronology.

Levin-Stankevich spoke about the implications of infringing on the tree, and the large negative response he has received about moving it.

“The Council Oak is important historically and culturally and we must treat it accordingly,” Levin-Stankevich said in his speech.

In the chancellor’s opinion, the University has begun to unite over this issue and he has been pleasantly surprised.

“I’ve seen this campus over the past couple weeks . really rally around a symbol that we didn’t have before,” Stankevich said. “It’s almost a rediscovery of a symbol that we used to have.”

The chancellor then made his announcement to the audience to consider redesign options for the new student union, and concluded by stressing the importance of community support.

At the Environmental Impact Statement public meeting held the same night after the chancellor’s speech, several university officials said there was no easy way to tell how the building timeline will be affected by a redesign. Depending on the changes, redesign could push the project back anywhere between a few months to more than a year, they estimated.

Student Body President Michael Umhoefer, who also is a member of the steering committee, called the announcement from the chancellor concerning.

“The financial implications of such a dramatic change will have a direct impact on the building itself,” Umhoefer said.

According to Tim Luttrell, project planner for the Division of State Facilities, the financial implications would be steep. Luttrell estimates the new building would cost approximately $2 million to $2.5 million for the delays in construction and redesign.

Umhoefer said these issues could have been avoided during the many opportunities that were given for people to discuss the location of the new building.

“There were multiple venues for students, faculty and staff to address this concern and those were not taken advantage of,” Umhoefer said. “So now the students will have to pay for the changes.”

The $48.8 million budget for the building will not be increased by the cost of redesign, Umhoefer said. Rather, the $2 million to $2.5 million would come out of the already-existing budget, meaning many of the things that were originally planned on would no longer be an option.

“If I were a student, I’d go, ‘Wait a minute,’” Luttrell said, “‘I’m spending $2.5 million and getting nothing.’”

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