Work to start on North Bay student centre: Long-planned-for project to include study space, atrium, quad.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

After years of planning--and dreaming--Nipissing University students will finally see a brand-new student centre start to take shape on campus this summer.

"It's a really big step," said Daniel Goulard, president of the Nipissing University Student Union (NUSU). "There's a lot of work that's been done in years past to get us to this point."

Buzz around plans for a new, dedicated student centre surfaced more than a decade ago, and in 2008, students voted to start paying an annual levy to contribute to the construction fund. Now those funds will be put toward building costs, which will be topped off by a financing plan, although Goulard said students will continue to pay the construction fund levy until the entire project is paid for and construction is complete.

Situated at the entrance to the North Bay campus, on land already owned by the university, the nearly 32,000-square-foot multi-use facility will feature an informal lounge, study nooks, an atrium, office space for NUSU, a restaurant with an outdoor patio, a nightclub, which will double as an event space, and a student quad with outdoor seating.

There are existing student lounges and study spaces scattered across campus, but the new student centre will offer an all-in-one option that increases accessibility for students.

"We wanted to make sure that we were addressing all of the students' needs, because student life isn't just the academics; it's the social aspects as well as just decompression in terms of stress and stuff," Goulard said.

"So if you need a place to study and to find yourself a focus space, we have that, but it'll also be a place to socialize with your peers and unwind if you're feeling a little overwhelmed about what's going on around you."

Designed by the North Bay firm Mitchell Jensen Architects, the building will be clad in elements inspired by the campus' natural surroundings, including stone, zinc and wood. From the start, NUSU and Nipissing's students have provided much of the direction for, and input into, the project, including selecting which firm to work with.

A request for proposals (RFP) for the construction contract was issued in April and closed on May 16. Once the tender is awarded, the school will have a better idea as to the project's overall value and the construction timeline, noted David Drenth, Nipissing University's director of facilities.

"Our experience over the last number of years has been somewhere between a year and a half and two years...

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