Upon returning to Willamette for the 2019 fall semester, College of Liberal Arts students were welcomed by the sight of the newly renovations completed on the first floor of the Putnam University Center (UC). These renovations, which revamped the flooring of the building and added new sitting areas to the space, also added a new window to the Bistro and shifted the location of its door leading to the UC. These changes also added 25 square feet of floor space to the Bistro. Bistro management was involved with parts of the renovations that concerned them.
Assistant Director of Projects Mark Mazurier worked directly with the renovations, and spoke to the goals of the project: “The ultimate goal for the project was to modernize the first floor lobby and make it more inclusive and comfortable for students to gather in. The relocation of Maps Credit Union is a more efficient use of space. The remodel and redesignation of both restrooms helps with the need for all-gender restrooms on campus. The expansion of the Bistro should mitigate some of the crowding that can occur there during busy times. The new carpeted soft seating area next to the Bistro provides a cozy spot to hang out on the first floor.”
Although many changes were made during the renovations the most noticable is the revamped flooring in the UC. Gray hardwood boards now lay where tile previously was, creating a smoother, modern aesthetic within the building.
According to Tania Palafox (‘20), the current Bistro manager, not all aspects of the renovations have been met by students with open arms.
“When renovations began it was our concern, the Bistro management’s primary concern, to advocate for the addition of an accessibility activation switch on the Bistro door being remodeled. When we met with the University project managers of the renovations we were informed that the addition of an accessibility button would be too expensive and was not mandatory underneath Oregon state building codes.“ said Palafox.
When asked about Willamette’s decision concerning an additional Bistro accessibility button, Mazurier said that the University is now planning to do so.
“Since our initial meeting with Bistro management, we have decided to install an automatic door opener on the main exterior door of the Bistro. Apparently, this had not been communicated to the Bistro management yet.”
Mazurier also spoke about construction and cost of the renovations: “The UC renovations cost approximately $225,000, including design, construction and new furniture, and began shortly after 2019’s commencement. The plan to renovate the first floor of the UC had been decided since early 2017, and the decision to begin construction was made in fall of 2018.”
The cost of the project, Mazurier stated, was debt funded. According to Cambridge Dictionary debt funding is, “Money borrowed by a company for long periods in the form of loans or bonds.” Cambridge Dictionary also states that because this form of borrowing operates over a long period of time, it is generally a safe way to raise the capital of the borrower.
According to The Atlantic, universities commonly take out debt-funded loans to produce new infrastructure or remodel parts of their campuses:“[In 2017] colleges and universities borrowed a record $41.3 billion through municipal bonds, their principal source of debt funding, the financial firm Thomson Reuters reports… Colleges and universities collectively spent $8.4 billion on new construction.”