The first discoveries were mold and termites. Then came wood rot, decay, air and water leaks and structural flaws. After fire and space code violations, Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, also known as La Casita, and the Institute for Black Culture finally closed in spring of 2017.

As the 2018-19 school year approaches, designs for the new buildings have been finalized and construction has begun, according to the UF Multicultural and Diversity Affairs website.

The project costs around $7.8 million, said Gabe Lara, UF director of Hispanic-Latino Affairs, and it is being paid for by the UF Capital Investment Trust Fund. The Association of Black Alumni and the Association of Hispanic Alumni may contribute as well. 

“UF is the only university with two spaces for Latin American and black students,” said P.J. Jones, UF MCDA assistant director, in a class presentation about the MCDA on Wednesday.

This is what the new La Casita and IBC will look like, according to MCDA design plans:

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Above are the projected exterior designs for the IBC (left) and La Casita.

Danny Hernandez, a UF political science senior and former HLA ambassador, said students in the MCDA were able to vote on the following three proposed design options before building plans were finalized.

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“The current designs were created through many meetings from the architects with the planning committee, students and other stakeholders,” Lara said.

He grinned while detailing the finalized interior of La Casita, saying the building will feature a dedicated cafe space and three study areas that will fit between two and 10 people.

Students previously complained La Casita was too loud to study, Lara said, so the new spaces will have doors for privacy and audiovisual technology to hook up computers.

Lara said there will be a downstairs living room with a TV, conference room and balcony along with an upstairs event space capable of hosting “up to 120 people” for movie nights, lectures, socials, potlucks, meetings and cultural holidays.

His favorite new design element is a clear plastic awning that reflects a shadow of all the Latin American flags onto the La Casita balcony.

As before, the spaces will be open to everyone, not just students who identify as black or Hispanic.

“We always had a misconception that you had to be Hispanic to walk in, but you don’t,” Lara said. “(La Casita) is welcome to everyone.”

Hernandez described La Casita as a space where students “can come together and unite.”

“It’s a really important space for us to all gather and hang out with each other and catch up on daily activities and each other’s lives,” he said.

Hernandez visited the facility a few times before it was torn down and plans to return after graduating this Spring to see the new building.

Lara said the goal is for La Casita and the IBC to be completed in 2019.

Photos of the exterior and interior designs for La Casita and the IBC are courtesy of UF MCDA.

This story was edited after it was posted to correct when the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures and Institute for Black Culture closed, Spring 2017, and when the new buildings are expected to open, 2019. The budget for the both buildings is about $7.8 million.