UF students came back from Spring Break to a half-renovated Plaza of the Americas — and some were not impressed with the university’s latest project.
The construction, which started November 2016, is halfway done and should be completed in June, said Robert Hatker, the project manager. The east side of the ﬁ eld facing Peabody Hall, which was previously fenced, is now uncovered, and the
west side facing Leigh Hall is being worked on.
The project’s total budget was set at $2.2 million, and construction costs have not yet exceeded that, Hatker said. Harold Barrand, UF’s director of minor projects said workers replaced all sidewalks and added new ones, re-planted grass and landscaping, replaced the roadway in front of Peabody Hall with a pedestrian walkway and built a new irrigation system.
Constructors still have to add recycling and trash bins, establish the plaza’s Wi-Fi and add new benches and tables.
“I think it’s exceeded everybody’s expectations,” Barrand said. “It’s a nice feeling to see the plans become a reality.”
Gabby Quintana, a UF political science and philosophy senior, said she’s missed laying in her hammock on the plaza since part of it closed in November. Now, the 21-year-old said the renovations seem overpriced since it looks like volunteers could have completed them.
“It’s pretty,” Quintana said. “But it’s not as cozy as before.”
Construction was funded through two UF alumni’s $1.3 million donation, with remaining money from the ofﬁce of UF Chief Operating Ofﬁcer Charlie Lane, according to Alligator archives.
Charles Shields, a UF political science graduate student, said UF didn’t prioritize its spending. Shields, the communications director for Graduate Assistants United, said the union is negotiating a new contract for graduate students’ health care program with UF.
UF told the union they had to ﬁnd $900,000 to keep the current health care plan, equal to the amount of money UF put into the renovations, Shields said.
“So you can throw almost a million dollars for some landscaping, but on the other hand, you’re telling us our health care is costing you too much?” Shields said. “That makes me mad.”
Barrand said the renovations will improve the life of future students.
“This will be a nice plaza for everybody to enjoy for many years to come,” Barrand said.
Contact Jimena Tavel at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @taveljimena