Almost back to normal

Fence-less mall in mid-to-late June will mark construction-free campus for first time in three years


GREEN AT LAST: The fences around the campus mall in front of the brand-new Centennial Hall are expected to be removed in the earlier part of summer. For the first time since 2011, campus will not be under construction. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson

Story by Martha Landry, Editor in Chief

Junior Paul Savides had a brief moment his freshman year without major construction on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Aside from that, the “most beautiful campus in Wisconsin” has been consistently under construction for the past three years.

Savides said aesthetics was an important part of his reason for attending Eau Claire. He said he hopes the “barren, brown campus” will get its beauty back soon.

Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations, Mike Rindo said the university is removing the last remnants of construction — the fences enclosing the center of campus mall — by mid-June or early July.

“There is a punch list of work that still needs to be completed,” Rindo said. “Which includes grass maintenance, finalizing the brick work and placing the Sprites statue in its future location — the center of campus mall.”

Finally, greening grass and growing trees are turning the mall into a recognizable space for students.

On March 7, 2011, ground broke for the “new student center.” The old Davies Center was torn down and rebuilt at the current location. Other projects including Centennial Hall, campus mall complete reconstruction and the Haas Fine Arts Parking Lot have kept the campus under construction.

The campus mall has been a restricted space since fall 2012, because the tear-down of the old Davies Center meant open soil and pathway reconstruction. The fences have stayed in place on campus mall because the sod needs time to anchor itself and snow removal were potentially damaging.

“We are going to need to get three to four cuttings out of it before it is allowed to be used,” Rindo said. “We expect there are going to be a lot of people out there taking advantage of the green space.”

Freshman Cassi Ott said she can’t wait to relax and study on the campus lawn once warmer weather hits Eau Claire.

“I’m excited to get out in the sun,” Ott said. “This winter has been way too long so I’m excited to just lay out in the grass.”

Rindo said a large rainstorm last spring washed away much of the grass seed between Schofield and the Davies Center, so the university wants to be extra careful about protecting the grass in the rest of the mall.

Along with placing the statue, Rindo said the university has to confer with the art department about the alterations needed to fit the Sprites in the campus mall.

Missing from the discussion is the clock tower. Savides said he is looking forward to the replacement of the tower on campus mall.

“It’s been sitting (in storage) behind Phillips Hall for such a long time,” he said.

But Rindo said the university is holding off on its re-debut until the next phase of the university Master Plan is completed  — the restoration of Garfield Avenue.

Next steps

Master Plan construction began in 2011 with the $48.8 million student-funded student center, followed by the $44.5 million state-funded education building. Future projects include new residence halls and current restoration, a new science building, and biking and pedestrian upgrades. The Priory was also a part of the Master Plan. (More information about The Priory can be found on page 3.)

The Garfield Avenue reconstruction with a pedestrian focus that more efficiently and aesthetically links upper and lower campus is slated to begin in 2015 or 2016. Rindo said university officials met last month and sent out request for design proposals, so the project is still in beginning design phases.

Rindo said it will take two summers to complete the project, and substantial disruption should be expected because of the magnitude of the project. He said a majority of the work will take place over summer months.

But short term, students can still expect the famous Blugold tulips in time for the May graduation ceremony, as well as greener grass and an open mall.

“They will be doing those garden beds and all those things that people are accustomed to,” Rindo said. “The campus will be looking a lot more beautiful this summer than it has in the last couple of summers.”