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$23 million Armstrong Phase II construction to begin January

By Nick Meyerson, For The Miami Student

Phase II of the Armstrong Student Center construction will begin in January. The center is expanding to a larger east wing, encompassing Culler Hall, and will include updated facilities student space.

The new addition, dubbed Armstrong Student Center East Wing, is expected to be fully operational in fall 2017, ASC director Katie Wilson said.

The new building will be home to various amenities, including a coffee bar, meeting rooms, more student organization rooms, a recreational facility called the "Red Zone" and a student senate chamber. In total, the project will cost $23 million.

This tab has some people uneasy. Senior Roberta Fritz-Klaus said donations should be spent elsewhere - namely, on academic buildings.

"When alums donate to their alma mater, they do so in order to continue the improvement of undergraduate education, not for students to go shopping or play video games," Fritz-Klaus said.

Wilson, however, said the student center's second phase isn't a new development.

"This has always been the plan," Wilson said. "It is not an expansion; it's the completion of the project."

Fritz-Klaus said academic halls in desperate need of repair and renovation should be a higher priority. She said she believes the appropriated funds for this project could be better spent on student merit-based scholarships or be used to renovate academic buildings like Pearson, Hughes, Bachelor and Irvin.

"Instead of attracting affluent students with flashy retail and gaming stops, shouldn't Miami attract hard-working individuals and teach us to work for our desires?" Fritz-Klaus said.

When designing the expansion, Wilson said that, indeed, functionality and usefulness were the top priorities. She said she expects the student body to benefit tremendously from this new space. In designing the East Wing, officials skipped some possible features, like a bowling alley, to focus more on practicality.

"When push comes to shove, we have things that we would need more and use more," Wilson said.

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The first floor will have a café with a coffee service designed for efficiency and creating a variety of drinks. The final picture should look like a fully integrated single building complete with an interior catwalk-like bridge that connects the two floors.

There will also be a Buffalo Wild Wings-type area with widescreen TVs, billiards and air hockey, Wilson said.

According to the plans, the student senate chamber, that mimics a full-fledged congressional setup, is set to be a main attraction for visitors.

Sophomore Sydney Hewitt does not share the concerns of Fritz-Klaus. She is an intern at the First Miami Credit Union and said she thinks positively of the expansion. She said it is going to provide new opportunities for student-run organizations like the credit union.

"There are truly so many opportunities for everyone," Hewitt said.

While some minor details may change as the project develops, the workers will break ground around January 2016.