​Student social space to open on Corner Friday

1515 University Avenue will offer entertainment, study, rehearsal space

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Many structural changes were necessary to renovate the building, which was built in 1896.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

A new multipurpose student space at 1515 University Avenue is set to open Friday at noon. The updated venue on the Corner is the result of $4.9 million in renovations to the building formerly home to the Student Book Store. The University Programs Council has organized the grand opening, which will include a Student Council transition ceremony, crafts, a performance by Grant Frazier and late-night breakfast.

The University began leasing the building in 2015 after the Student Book Store closed a year earlier. In the summer of 2015, the inaugural class of the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership split into five groups to create a design for the building. The planning committee for the building included students involved in these initial designs, as well as University representatives. The University also collaborated with Nalls Architecture, Inc., a Pennsylvania architecture firm led by University alumnus Robert Nalls.

Scott Norris — chair of the planning committee and director of business services for the vice president of Student Affairs — said University Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Hogan had the idea to turn the building into a student center.

“I think it was in part a response to the real safety issues that we had been experiencing a couple years ago,” Norris said. “This building was available, and it had been vacant for a little while … The University entered into a long-term lease for the building, and agreed to do the renovations, and they brought it to Student Affairs to spearhead the development.”

Norris said student input on the project was one of the committee’s “number one priorities.”

“We recruited students to be a part of the planning committee, and they’ve been a real, core part that we’ve really relied on for a lot of decisions all throughout, from where to place the staircase and paint colors, to rules of operation for the building,” Norris said. “They’ve really had a huge input into everything all along.”

While the University had hoped to open at the start of the spring semester, the grand opening was pushed to March. Many structural changes were necessary to renovate the building, which was built in 1896. The University stabilized the sinking floor and replaced the roof, but also sought to keep the character of the old house.

John Bond, a fourth-year College student and Meriwether Lewis Fellow, said the renovations proceeded according to plan, but the committee was occasionally surprised by the history of the building.

“When we first started renovating the basement, we discovered there were these paintings on the walls from back when it used to be a dance hall, of people dancing,” Bond said.

The committee took the building’s history into consideration during the renovations and design.

“This top floor here used to be apartments … so we’ve kept that in mind when we planned the meeting spaces,” Bond said. “They’re all themed after a different room in the house. For example, we have a dining room, and the garage, and the den and the living room.”

The building has three floors and is designed to offer space for students to study, rehearse and relax. The top floor has rooms students can reserve for meetings and a reflection room where students can meditate. Career Services will meet with students in the study until 5 p.m., when it will become available for general use.

“Meeting space is a thing you can find all over, but it’s in high demand … so we have a lot of meeting spaces here,” Bond said. “You don’t have to go all the way to central Grounds if you’re coming from 14th [Street], you can meet on the Corner.”

The main floor holds Crumbs on the Corner, a new Aramark-run cafe. A stage in the front of the room can be reserved by students and will also offer performance space for student organizations. The top and main floors both offer gender-neutral bathrooms.

Bond said he is most excited about the possibilities the stage will offer different student performers.

“I think it’s really cool that we have that performing area and we can really feature a lot of solo artists or duos or small student performing groups that don’t really get the chance to shine as much in other areas, or maybe aren’t as visible to the student body,” Bond said.

According to Bond, the basement will likely be the noisiest floor, with TVs and free games like pool and foosball.

Bond said he hopes students will enjoy everything 1515 offers, from meeting spaces to snacks to entertainment.

“I think the advantage for it being on the Corner is that it’s something we don’t have here already,” Bond said. “It’s a space where you can come and hang out late at night if you don’t feel like going to bars that night, or if you want a place to come hang out that’s not your dorm if you’re a first year, then you can come here … Hopefully it will become part of the everyday life of students, as much as other spaces are.”

According to Norris, 1515 is “intentionally competing” with bars, and will offer an alternative to participating in high-risk behavior.

“We really want it to be a landing space for students,” Norris said. “We want students to see this as a second home. Whether they’re on-Grounds or off-Grounds, we want it to be a safe and inviting and really fun, cool place for students when they’re looking for a social outing on the Corner.” 

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