University of West Florida

Pensacola,

Student Union Preliminary Assessment And Feasibility Study

In 2008 the University of West Florida retained B&D to conduct a student union preliminary assessment to examine the potential for renovation and expansion or replacement of the University Commons, relative to the opportunities created by developing an entirely new facility to replace it. Based on the initial findings from our assessment, we were re-engaged later that year to conduct a full feasibility study to include focus groups, an existing facilities assessment, program benchmarking, near-campus retail analysis, an electronic survey of student demand, demand-based programming, and the development of project concepts with associated outline programs. Although the University Commons hosted a comprehensive range of facilities and services, after two additions to its original 1960’s structure, the facility lacked cohesion and provided little in the way of contemporary gathering spaces, student organization offices, or retail foodservice. It also was unable to attract significant pass-through traffic due to its confusing layout despite its central campus location, residential dining facility, and adjacency to the library. Survey results indicated that both the growing residential student population and commuting students sought an inviting and more spacious union facility. While developing a completely new union facility was explored, we recommended a significant renovation and expansion be considered in order to retain the existing central location with its important adjacencies. Several concepts were devised that retained the newer additions to the building and incrementally altered the space allocation and configuration of the building. This approach was strategically important for the institution, as the range of options provided latitude for further exploring student and administrative support for the fee increases that would be needed to expand the Commons and implement critically needed upgrades.