Significant progress made on Lower Sproul Redevelopment Project

Sureya Melkonian/Staff

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Construction of the new Eshleman Hall will begin later this week as part of a plan to make Lower Sproul a hub of student life and activity.

A renovated Lower Sproul Plaza and rebuilt northwest stairway also are expected to reopen at the end of September, according to Christine Shaff, communications director for Facilities Services. The Lower Sproul Redevelopment Project remains on schedule to be completed by fall 2015 and is projected to cost $223 million.

According to Shaff, workers are excavating the Eshleman site, rebuilding the top surface of the plaza, retrofitting lighting in the Cesar Chavez Student Center and engaging in a focused demolition inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

Because of the project, student organizations that were based in Eshleman Hall were relocated to Hearst Gym in August 2012.

“Now it’s a lot more organized and cleaner,” said Khanh Nguyen, co-operations chair of Southeast Asian Student Coalition. “Eshleman was kind of falling apart. The transition wasn’t that difficult. They gave us a reasonable timeline and enough space.”

According to Briana Mullen, the ASUC’s Lower Sproul communications coordinator, the completed plaza will have student-group spaces and vendor spaces as well as restaurants, coffee shops and a meditation space. There will also be an open space for students who are not part of student organizations to enjoy the area.

Although some student groups already have been allocated future Lower Sproul spaces due to specific needs, the majority of student organizations have not been placed. The Office of ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack will be responsible for selecting which student organizations will be able to move into the new Lower Sproul. Final decisions will not be made until next year.

Revenue for the ASUC has also been affected because vendors in the student union that usually pay rent to the ASUC are closed during the construction, Mullen said. However, part of the redevelopment project budget goes toward “revenue replacement.”

“$1.5 million a year is set aside for ASUC and ASUC Auxiliary,” Mullen said. “We are exploring other activities to increase services and new revenue options.”

Shaff and Mullen both said the demolition of Eshleman was one of the highlights of the project and was an important sign of progress.

“It was the first time students actually saw something happening,” Mullen said.

The B.E.A.R.S. Initiative, passed by the student body in spring 2010, was “the first huge milestone” in the project, Mullen said. The initiative instituted an escalating student fee, currently set at $35, to provide most of the project’s funding. The fee will continue until the 2046-47 academic year.

Somin Park covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].