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ECU leaders vote for new $162 million student centers

ECU leaders vote for new $162 million student centers

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Two new student centers are coming to East Carolina University's campus.

Friday, the Board of Trustees voted to go ahead with the $162-million project.

Supporters say the university needs to be able to accommodate a larger student body.

The plan includes a new center on the main campus and one on the health sciences campus.

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East Carolina University leaders will vote Friday morning on whether to spend $162 million to expand their campus.

The plan is to build two new student centers – one to replace the nearly 40-year-old Mendenhall Student Center on main campus and another on ECU's Health Sciences campus.

"This new student center also has a major public face on 10th Street and then integrates parking that replaces surface parking that the building is displacing," explains David Johnson of Smith Group JJR.

University officials say the new 208,757-square-foot building and 700-car parking garage on main campus, and the 67,788-square-foot building on the health sciences campus, are necessary to accommodate their 27,000 students and more than 300 student organizations.

"We've simply outgrown the Mendenhall Student Center," says Virginia Hardy, the vice chancellor of ECU's Division of Student Affairs.

On Thursday, ECU Student Affairs administrators and outside consultants presented the ECU Board of Trustees with the new center proposals. The two projects would be paid for with increased student fees and by companies that would operate in the new centers. 

"Based upon the data we have from our students, Mendenhall is considered to be a destination place," Hardy says. "Meaning students come in, they get what they need and they get out. They don't necessarily hang out because it's not conducive to that. So the new student center will be the 'living room' [of campus].

Hardy estimates student fees could range from $200-400 per person and wouldn't kick in until construction begins.

It's a price ECU junior Trent Tignor says would be well worth it.

"If your friends are going downtown, but you don't want to do that, then you kind of don't really have an option but to hang out by yourself," he says. "And it will be kind of cool to see what this new student center provides."

The board will vote on the proposals Friday morning. If approved, the University of North Carolina General Administration and the UNC Board of Governors would have to sign off on it before construction could begin.

If everything goes smoothly, ECU officials say construction could begin in the fall of 2014 and would be completed in about two years.



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