A city committee approved the final plans for the new Alumni Park, renovations to the Alumni House and Memorial Union renovations in a meeting Monday night, bringing the city and university one step closer to finishing the projects by fall of 2017.
Nate Novak, landscape architect with SmithGroupJJR, presented the final plans for the projects to the Joint Southeast Campus Area Committee. The construction should begin in summer 2014. The renovation is estimated to cost $54 million, $8 million of which will go to the new Alumni Park.
Alumni Park will be a new green space located between the Union and the Red Gym, in the area which was previously a parking lot. Novak said the park is meant to “celebrate the Wisconsin Idea,” not be just a donor-funded park.
“[The park] is meant to be a celebration in honor of the Wisconsin idea, the University alumni and their contributions to the university, to the state and to the world as a whole,” Novak said.
Novak said the park will be very interactive, featuring different displays and panels in an effort to “inspire the current generation” of students. He said university planners are also proposing a mobile application to give an extra level of detail about the proposed exhibits in the park.
The park itself is structured based on a ripple effect, Novak said, with a center ring of landscaping and outward rings around it, as well as a center walkway through the rings.
The university is considering renovations to the Alumni House to create a direct entrance to the park, Novak said, adding that other renovations to the Alumni House include a new meeting area with tables and lounge chairs, as opposed to the reception desk and host of offices there now.
“It’s meant to be a place for alumni to go,” Novak said. “Right now there’s really not much there. As alumni, it’s not very welcoming. This gives them kind of that area to help give people a place to go.”
Rob Kennedy, a UW transportation planner, said there also will be added bicycle parking around the Union, since there is currently a shortage of bike parking.
Kennedy said planners have worked with a local vendor to invent a new type of bicycle rack that provides 25 percent more parking spots but takes up the same amount of space as traditional racks. These new racks have been tested at the Engineering School with significant success, Kennedy said.
“We do know what the demand is going to be [for spaces] and it’s considerable,” Kennedy said. “We really think we’re gonna finally get enough bike parking spaces.”
He added the union will also have monitors indicating bus arrival times.
The plans for Memorial Union also include multiple interior renovations and mechanical updates, Novak said.
In the interior, a major change includes a new hallway where the food service for the Rathskeller is currently located. Novak said this is to provide a clearer route to the outdoor terrace. The food service will then be located on the side of that hallway.
Novak also described an underground tunnel for loading and delivery services to the Union. The tunnel will wrap around to provide access to the Alumni House as well as the Red Gym.
The Terrace area, however, will not be changing except for the rebuilding of some landscape walls, Novak said.
Currently, fundraising for the Alumni Park is finished, while funds for the Union renovations have not yet reached the fundraising goal. The projects will next go to the city Plan Commission on Jan. 13.