N.C. Central unveils plans for new student union

Kaylee Sciacca, collegegtownnc.com

A wooden model of the current design of N.C. Central University’s new student center. Photo by Kaylee Sciacca

N.C. Central University students, faculty and alumni got a glimpse recently of the planned student center in the Alfonso Elder Student Union.

The two-story center, which will span 100,000 square feet in the parking lot behind the current student union, will have a multipurpose space that can be converted into multiple event rooms, a lounge area and offices and workspaces for student organizations and administration. It will also feature a 1,750-seat auditorium that could accommodate the entire freshman class of 2021.

Members of Student Engagement and Leadership organizations saw a less-polished construction model during their retreat last summer in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Their thoughts, along with surveyed responses from students, helped the design team of Duda|Paine Architects, O’Brien/Atkins Associates and MHTN Architects develop building schemes intended to best fulfill current and future students’ needs.

All three firms have experience in designing buildings for higher education, including N.C. State’s Talley Student UnionWinston-Salem State University’s Thompson Student Services Center and Weber State University’s Residential Life campus.

Features within the new center at NCCU aim to integrate and update current campus components to fit larger student populations. The current Eagle’s Nest dining space in the bottom floor of the union will double in size in the new center to host four vendors. A senate chamber for the Student Government Association will be on the second floor and the Women’s Center, presently located next to Baynes Residence Hall, will be absorbed into the center alongside other campus resources.

If you’re a current student, don’t hold your breath on seeing this finished as an undergrad: Construction is not set to begin until spring 2019.

The center is projected to open to the public during the fall 2021 semester, just in time to welcome the class of 2025 to NCCU.

Kevin G. Montgomery, president and chief operating officer for O’Brien/Atkins Associates, commended students last month for contributing to the center’s $36.1 million budget through an increase in student fees.

“What you’re doing with your student fees is giving back, paying ahead, making a difference,” Montgomery said. “Some of you will experience it if this is your freshman year. But for those of you who aren’t, I hope that your pride will draw you back here.”

SEAL Executive Director Orok Orok said the Alfonso Elder Student Union, while set to move into an administrative capacity, has the potential to become another campus retail location.

“There are some things the administration is looking at in regards to connecting this space to (the new center), but that’s further on down the line,” Orok said.

A solution to where students will park during construction is being developed.

“The hope is that we utilize more of the spaces that are currently underutilized,” Orok said. “There’s a major assessment that’s still in the works right now.”


Kaylee Sciacca is a contributor to collegetownnc.com, where this article originally ran.