EVANSTON, Ill. --- The first floor of Norris University Center at Northwestern University is currently under renovation with construction of a new student lounge and Starbucks.
The construction is set to wrap up this month, and a grand opening is tentatively planned for Jan. 3.
Two years ago, the Norris administration began a needs assessment procedure to discover what the campus wanted in its student union. It was a comprehensive process involving focus groups and surveys for faculty, staff and students.
“We learned a number of things throughout the process,” said Richard Thomas, director of Norris. “But one thing jumped out at us; people said over and over that they wanted a coffee house.”
After construction is completed, customers will be able to order coffee drinks over the counter that once secured student group mailboxes and files. The computer lab and couches will also be replaced with a fireplace, flat-screen television and new tables and chairs.
“I believe we will have the only working fireplace on campus,” said Thomas. “It's going to be a great amenity, especially in winter quarter.”
Another finding by the Norris administration was that people did not find the building to be comfortable and inviting. Thomas hopes the new coffee house environment will create a “hang out space” where people will not only want to visit but will want to stay.
“We hope to create a place that brings people together and creates community on campus,” he said.
Norris has had few problems accommodating the construction. The main lounge furniture has been temporarily redistributed to the underground, ground and second floors. The computers have been relocated to the game room. The main desk has permanently moved to the west entrance of the building, which will now better serve as a welcome center for the building.
“We certainly recognize that doing a project mid-year wasn't ideal,” said Thomas. “But the way the planning process evolved, we couldn't pull it off this past summer, and we decided that the inconvenience for a month and a half to two months of construction was worth it for what we believe will be a greatly enhanced amenity for the Norris Center.”