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Expanded Price Center to Serve as Hub of Student Life on Campus

Ioana Patrigenaru | February 11, 2008

Students will be able to grab lunch, shop for groceries and mail letters — all under one roof. They will even be able to get a haircut. They also will have twice as much room to eat and three times more room to do their homework, rest or just hang out.

Price Center Expansion (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
Students walk by the Price Center expansion.
Click here to watch a streaming RealPlayer video of the expansion.
Click here to download the QuickTime video of the expansion.

UCSD’s nightlife will get a boost with the opening of The Loft, a nightclub, performance space and restaurant all rolled up into one. The Price Center’s expansion is set to open later this quarter and university officials say it will dramatically change student life on campus for the better.

“I’m terribly thrilled,” said Paul Terzino, director of University Centers. “This is going to be a great space for the students.”

The expansion will offer about 10,000 square feet of lounge space on several floors. Students also will be able to bask in the sun on the Triton Stairs, a series of tall concrete steps that will double as seating space.  Group meeting rooms and study lounges equipped with computers will make it easier to study.

Students’ food choices will expand significantly, with eight new restaurants, including a burger joint, an Asian tea shop and a coffee house. The expansion also will include a grocery store, a hair salon and a bigger post office. It will become the new home for many organizations, including the Associated Students. “I’m really excited to move,” said Marco Murillo, the A.S. president. “Students will be able to have a lot more choice than they have right now.”

Just walking through the building under construction is exciting, said Mary Johnson, an assistant director at the UCSD Alumni Association, which also will move to the expanded Price Center. “You can see the potential,” she said. “There’s an energy to it.”

A new downtown emerges

Officials hope the new and improved Price Center will become an anchor for the university’s new downtown, which started taking shape when the new Student Services Center opened last academic year. Lyman Lane, which runs along the western end of the UCSD Bookstore, will become the area’s new main artery. The downtown will fully take shape when the campus’ new music center opens in spring 2009.

Price Center Expansion illustration
An artist rendering of the Price Center expansion.

The expansion has been in the works since 2003, when students approved a referendum to increase fees and build additional facilities. Construction started in spring 2006. A committee, which included many students, helped determine which services would be available in the new structure. The students asked for a permeable building that would be inviting from many different angles, Terzino said. So, the building has many different entrances. The Triton Stairs, on Lyman Lane, will offer access to the second floor. Students coming from other parts of campus by shuttle will enter through a four-story-tall atrium. Each of the expansion’s floors also is connected to the existing Price Center.

“It was really thrilling to see that the students’ ideas were incorporated by the architect in putting the building together,” said Jay W. Smith, a principal architect in UCSD’s design and construction department.

A tour of the expansion

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Smith stood in the heart of the expansion, pointing out some of its most distinctive features. The buzz of construction noises bounced off the walls of the new building, where windows and walls are still missing in places. The smell of fresh paint wafted through the air. Scaffolding seemed to crawl up every inch of the structure.

Price Center Expansion contruction (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
Construction of the expansion's four-story atrium is still on-going.

“It’s the hub of the campus,” Smith said, when asked to describe what makes the building special.

He started his tour in the atrium, which is one of the facility’s most striking features, he said. “It allows all floors to connect visually,” he added. For example, students entering the building on the first floor will be immediately be able to see what is happening on the upper floors.

They also will see a 40-by-80-foot mural by artist Barbara Kruger. The piece, entitled “Another,” will feature two clock faces, two news tickers and two-word phrases starting with the word “another.” The artwork will extend to the atrium’s floor, which will display 33 quotes by historical figures, from Robert Frost to Malcolm X. The goal is to make the piece a destination on campus, much like the Bear, which adorns the courtyard of the Jacobs School of Engineering, said Gary Ratcliff, assistant vice chancellor for student life.

The atrium also will serve as a 350-seat indoor food court, in direct response to students’ wishes, said Terzino, the University Centers director. Off the atrium, students also will have access to a 24-hour lounge, equipped with computers, much like the Sun God lounge in the existing Price Center.

A staircase leads to the building’s second floor, home to several of the expansion’s performance spaces. Smith, the architect, pointed to a 4,500-foot, two-story ballroom with a built-in stage and a high-tech lights and sound system. The ballroom will be a great venue for campus cultural organizations to hold their annual celebrations, Terzino said. A dance studio located just off the ballroom will serve as a rehearsal space. “Right now, there are some student groups dancing in parking lots,” Terzino said.

The Loft

The Loft (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
A student walks by the site for The Loft @ UCSD night club, set to open in June.

The second floor also will be home to The Loft @ UCSD, a night club, restaurant and performance lounge set to open in June. It will be the only venue of its kind not just on campus, but also in the University City area, said Martin Wollesen, the artistic director of ArtPower! at UCSD, which will coordinate programming at The Loft.

“It’s really going to be the flagship venue in this whole revitalized downtown,” Wollesen said.

Performances for an audience of 150 to 175 will include everything from rock and roll, to hip-hop, to spoken word, to film festivals. “The experience of going there will be the experience of discovering something new,” Wollesen said. A busy day at The Loft could include a social event after the end of the school day, then a concert, then a DJ party. On some nights, the space might be open until 2 or 3 a.m., or even later. Wollesen said he hopes admission for students will be free, or at a very low cost. “We don’t want price to be a real or perceived barrier to experiencing something new,” he said.

The Loft will have an added benefit for students. Art Power! will hire student programmers and program managers. The Loft will be a social space, where patrons will get a chance to interact with artists and student employees will make sure the audience connects with performers, Wollesen said.

Student and campus organizations

Above The Loft, rise the expansion’s third and fourth floors, which are set to open first. They will house student organizations, including the Associated Students and campus groups, including the Alumni Association. The organization will have twice as much office space and will add six staff members.

Paul Terzino and Jay Smith (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
From left: Paul Terzino, University Centers director, and Jay Smith, a principal architect in the campus' design and construction department.

“I think that is a real turning point for alumni relations here,” said Johnson, the Alumni Association assistant director who chairs the committee in charge of coordinating the move. “For the first time since the association was established in 1964, we’re going to be in the hub where student activity takes place. We’re going to be visible.”

The association also has expanded the services it offers to current students, such as mentoring and scholarships. “We think happy students make happy alumni,” Johnson said.

Students and employees will start moving into the third and fourth floors sometime in March. The rest of the expansion will open in increments as other areas become ready for occupancy.

“I can’t wait to get the building open,” Terzino said.


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