Feasibility study will determine fate of Wood Center

Plans to move the bookstore into the Wood Center and renovate the old upstairs coffee shop to make way for a technology store and help desk are underway. Sarah Manriquez/ Photo Editor

Plans to move the UAF Bookstore into Wood Center and renovate the old upstairs coffee shop area to make way for a technology store and help desk are under consideration. Sarah Manriquez/ Photo Editor

Spencer Tordoff / Web Editor

Plans for new Office of Information Technology and UAF Bookstore outlets in Wood Center are on hold until a feasibility study is completed, according to Ali Knabe, UAF Executive Officer for University and Student Advancement.

“We have competing interests in space in Wood Center,” Knabe said. “To be fiscally responsible, we need to make sure that things are going to areas that make the most sense and cost the least.”

The study was commissioned when it was learned that tentative plans for the OIT tech store would result in potential water and power issues in other areas of the building.

That’s when I said ‘stop,'” Knabe said. “We have to have a more cohesive plan going forward.”

Most aspects of the bookstore move—including the cost—remain undetermined at this time, but it is likely on the shortest timetable, as the the store’s owners, Follett Corporation, requested a new location during their contract negotiations.

“If that pencils out and is advantageous to both Follett and UAF, we may see movement there,” Knabe said.

UAF Bookstore Manager Matt Erskin was unwilling to comment on the store’s relocation, but indicated that an agreement was not imminent.

One possible outcome for the relocation of the bookstore would take over space from ASUAF, as well as the current games and bowling areas of Wood Center. Were this to occur, student government offices would be moved into the space vacated by the bookstore in Constitution Hall—an area that is currently without elevator service.

“We know we can’t relocate and increase traffic in that area without addressing that access issue,” Knabe said.

According to Knabe, Follett would not pick up any of the costs associated with ASUAF’s relocation, but suggested Facilities Services might have funds available for accessibility improvements. She described the funding situation as a “piecemeal approach,” but indicated that no move would occur if funding couldn’t be secured in advance.

“If it’s determined that the new bookstore would…[displace] ASUAF, then [there] would have to have the plan and the money in place to make those improvements,” said Knabe. “It all has to work together.”

In all of the bookstore relocation plans, the Wood Center bowling alley is very likely to be removed, according to Knabe, as it’s not widely used and falling into disrepair.

People love [the bowling alley]. It’s a great thing to have on campus,” Knabe said. “But the reality of it is that we need to invest to keep it going, or do something different [with the space].”

Former ASUAF senator and current KSUA General Manager Mickey Zakurdaew opposes the remodeling plans and notes that the current student government offices were created by an act of the Alaska state legislature.

“The hardest to read plaque… is the one that matters the most,” said Zakurdaew, indicating a plaque hanging in the ASUAF that describes the event.

Zakurdaew was made aware of the retail plans for Wood Center when Vice Chancellor Mike Sfraga visited an ASUAF Senate hearing. At the hearing, Sfraga outlined other desired changes for Wood Center, including a possible remodel of the UAF Pub.

Knabe also confirmed that Sfraga has had “a lot to do” with retail plans for the campus center.

Zakurdaew fears that with a shift toward retail, Wood Center will no longer be a social center for UAF.

“If you’re just gonna put stores everywhere, what’s the point of students coming here?” Zakurdaew said. “[It’ll just be] a warm building to walk through on your way to class so you can look at things you can’t afford.”

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