UMD plans redesign of student lounge spaceIt’s been 30 years since the Kirby Student Center lounge and adjacent hallway at the University of Minnesota Duluth has been given a face-lift.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
It’s been 30 years since the Kirby Student Center lounge and adjacent hallway at the University of Minnesota Duluth has been given a face-lift.
The first phase of an update has begun in the form of an additional 3,100 square feet, the removal of the tunnel-like atmosphere and the creation of a modern, student-friendly space.
“A lot of people choose which university to go to based off the feel of the school,” said junior Ben Dufault, a member of the Student Association who also works at the Kirby information desk, both located in that area. “We’ve been down in enrollment this year. … I’m not saying the lounge will fix the problem, but it’s the university taking care of itself and getting up to date.”
Planning for the lounge and part of the main concourse of the university, which is expected to open in the fall, began about four years ago. Students played a large part in choosing the features, said Jeni Eltink, director of Kirby Student Center.
“Students are particular about what kind of things they want,” she said.
For example, when choosing the modern furniture, pieces were chosen to cater to the way students sit and study, such as leaving some couches or chairs armless.
“If students want to sit cross-legged in a chair they can,” Eltink said.
The renovation of the 6,600-square-foot space will cost $1.5 million, with $1.2 million coming from the student service fee fund and the remainder from facilities management.
The idea was to redo the space to serve a different generation of students than when Kirby was built in the 1950s, Eltink said.
“It had served its purpose,” she said. “It was so vital for students to have a good space instead of just ‘get along with what we’ve got.’”
More footage was needed for the increased student population, so the room previously used for Greek organizations is now lounge space. Those groups have been moved across the way into the Statesman offices.
Rooms for all student organizations will be part of Phase Two, which could happen in the next few years depending on finances and student feedback, Eltink said.
Senior marketing major Sean Finn has been on a renovation committee since he was a freshman. He said his goal was to see student involvement and enrollment increase on campus and he believed the right design would help do that. If students see all the activity happening within organizations and in the lounge, it gives a different perception of UMD, he said.
“You will have a sense that this is a busier place,” he said. “It means allowing more students to connect and more social networks to develop because you created a space that caters to that. That’s a pretty cool approach.”
Dufault, a political science major, said students will appreciate the flow of the new space and the coziness of the fireplaces. Lots of students gave input over the years, he said, and that was important.
“It is a student lounge at the end of the day, and (designers) understood that,” he said.