After five years of lobbying, planning and constructing, a new 24/7 study center at UF is scheduled to open next week.
The opening ceremony for Newell Hall will be Monday at 11 a.m., said Blake Murphy, chair of the Newell Hall Student Advisory Board. The study center will be equipped with about 400 indoor seating options, a 24/7 Au Bon Pain cafe-style restaurant and outlets on almost every piece of furniture, Murphy said. About 150 student jobs will be created for the $16.6 million building, according to Alligator archives.
“Every detail and every feature of the building was introduced with students in mind,” the 23-year-old said.
The building was designed with four themes: focus, rejuvenate, interact and collaborate, Murphy said. Each theme is shown through features like large meeting tables, reclining chairs, individual study pods and outside concrete pingpong tables.
“You’re supposed to be able to talk — it’s not a ‘sh’ space,” he said.
The idea for the renovated study space came from student responses to a Student Experience in the Research University survey in 2012, Murphy said. The No. 1 response was not enough study spaces on campus.
Student Government began lobbying the Florida Legislature in that same year to fund the project.
After facing multiple rejections, Florida Gov. Rick Scott approved $10 million for the project in June 2014, and former UF President Bernie Machen put $5 million more toward it.
Once construction began in late 2015, UF allocated another $1.6 million to the project, Murphy said.
Doors on all sides of the four-story building will be open during the day, and at night, students can use their Gator 1 cards to enter through the main entrance facing Stadium Road.
The center will include two sets of stairs similar to the Reitz Union’s social steps, vending machines on the top two floors and a bathroom on the first floor with a chair lift, meant for those with disabilities.
Students will be allowed to eat and drink throughout the building.
Newell Hall is the third-oldest building on campus and is considered a historical site, Murphy said. Renovations to the outside of the building are true to the original 1910 architecture.
The inside will reflect a more modern design, resembling a Google office, Murphy said. All the seats were chosen by a student committee, and the grass surrounding the building was tested for sitting.
Palm trees were planted with hammock lengths in mind, and the hall will have outdoor seating with nearby outlets and surrounding lights.
Kayla Gaines, a UF English and history sophomore, said while she normally studies at Library West, she’s ready for Newell Hall to open before her finals.
“I like how the old blends with the new,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m definitely going to go.”
Contact Paige Fry at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @paigexfry