Lease Crutcher Lewis – Erb Memorial Union

LeaseLease Crutcher Lewis’s work revitalizes the heart of the University of Oregon’s campus.

By Chris Petersen

Students returning to the campus of the University of Oregon this fall will benefit from an extensive renovation project being completed by leading general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis. The company is putting the finishing touches on a $95 million expansion of the university’s Erb Memorial Union, which will provide students with expanded space to meet and collaborate as well as provide expanded space for conferences and other events.

The project adds nearly 100,000 square feet to the existing facility, which was built in 1950. The expansion and renovation involves the demolition of a wing added to the facility in 1973. According to the university, the project preserves portions of the original building that have been deemed historically and/or architecturally compelling while also creating a modern space for student programs that will meet the needs of the university’s student body for the foreseeable future.Lease info box

“The vision is to create an expanded university center, providing programs, services, and spaces that are fully aligned with and supportive of the academic mission and values of the institution,” according to the university.

To bring that vision to life, the University of Oregon turned to Lease Crutcher Lewis, which has been in the business of delivering successful construction work for 130 years. Senior Project Manager Mark Butler says that although the project team faced all of the challenges one could expect when working on an occupied building on a busy university campus, Lease Crutcher Lewis’ experience kept everything on track.

Expanded Facilities

The renovation and expansion of the Erb Memorial Union was undertaken to provide more space for student activities. Among the features of the renovated facility are:

* New shared student organization space for ASUO-recognized student groups;

*Expanded conference facilities for departmental and professional organization meetings;

* Additional meeting space for general student and campus department use;

* Computer lab facilities and expanded smart building infrastructure;

* Expanded retail space and foodservice areas;

* Expanded studio space for the university radio station;

* Public spaces for large-scale performances, art exhibits and other on-campus events; and

* A new campus pub with full food and beverage service.

The university says it was crucial that the Erb Memorial Union remain as vital as part of student life on campus as it was when it was constructed more than 60 years ago. “Since it first opened in 1950, the EMU has provided a place to study, dine and gather,” the university says. “However, for a residential campus, a student union also means much more. It is a vital part of the university’s vision to create a vibrant community of scholars.”

The design ultimately reflected an open and inviting atmosphere that the university says will promote relaxation and collaboration among the student body. “The user group preferred schematic design organized around a new three-story central hearth,” the university says. “The intent for this space is to create a new social center of campus. The space will be open and sunlit to give a sense of volume and connection from floor to floor, adding social energy and views between spaces and the outdoors. The hearth opens to the south onto a new student green space. This outdoor space will provide infrastructure for a wide range of formal and informal campus events.”

Complicated Work

From a construction perspective, Butler says Lease Crutcher Lewis and its partners were faced with some true logistical challenges because of the nature of the project and its location. “This project pretty much stayed occupied, or at least partially occupied, except for three months,” Butler says.

Working under such constraints meant the project team needed to divide work in the occupied portions of the building into eight small phases, and Butler says it was challenging at times to coordinate the work. “Any time you finished something, you were starting something else,” he says.

Having that much complicated work spread across a 34-month schedule could be daunting, but Butler says Lease Crutcher Lewis was able to keep everyone on task and motivated. “That can burn out a lot of people, so keeping a positive attitude and reminding everyone of the product that we were providing was important,” he says.

Originally planned to be completed in May, the late addition of a renovation to an existing ballroom pushed the project’s scheduled completion date to October. Nevertheless, Butler says, the experience and attitude Lease Crutcher Lewis has brought to the University of Oregon campus has ensured that the Erb Memorial Union will continue to be a landmark for generations of students to come.

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