The state building commission gave ETSU the go-ahead to begin work on two phases of renovations to the D. P. Culp University Center. (Nathan Baker / Johnson City Press)
East Tennessee State University’s D.P. Culp Center will soon have a designated area to foster diversity and encourage dialogue between students of different groups.
Earlier this year, the State Building Commission green-lighted design work for the university center to add a multicultural center and to study the feasibility of rearranging the food establishments currently inhabiting the decades-old building at the Johnson City college.
Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Sherlin said the school has long been interested in establishing a place for students from diverse backgrounds and cultures to be able to foster relationships, and now that ETSU’s Welcome Center has been relocated to the new parking garage on the northwest side of campus, the opportunity to build that space has arrived.
“The overall goal of the Multicultural Center is to support a diverse and affirming climate for our students, especially our underrepresented students on campus,” Sherlin said. “We’re really excited about it, because we believe this will be one of those things that will enhance the quality, the vitality and energy of student life.”
The new center will take shape in the space formerly used by the Welcome Center, on the second floor of the Culp Center.
Sherlin said the building commission recently approved a contract with Knoxville’s Red Chair Architects to design the new offices.
The project is expected to cost the university $250,000 and is scheduled to be completed in the spring semester of 2015.
A second plan for the Culp Center could bring a reconfiguration of the food service options offered in the bottom floor, where a Starbucks-branded shop serves patrons of The Cave.
Sherlin said ETSU is considering the possibility of moving the university center’s computer lab to the Charles C. Sherrod Library, moving the coffee shop into its place and bringing another food-related business to The Cave.
“We’ve talked about bringing a McAlister’s Deli or some other concept that could be appealing for students to that space,” he said. “The Student Government Association has been very supportive of enhancing student life outside of class with projects like these.”
Cautioning that the latter project was still in the early stages of exploration, Sherlin said the renovations could cost as much as $400,000.
The funding for both phases will come from available money already collected for debt service for the Culp Center, so no new fees will be created to pay for it.
Late last year, the university posed a larger renovation project, with a price tag of $18 million for the university center, but the Student Government Association did not approve the $55 increase to student fees needed to fund it.
Sherlin said more renovations were not off the table, but said the university now had more time to review the needs for the building and create the best plan to move forward.
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