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Construction begins on ASC east wing

By Abbey Gingras, News Editor

The sidewalk between the Armstrong Student Center and Culler Hall closed Monday, Jan. 18 to make way for construction on the new east wing of the student center.

The walkway and the east entrance to Armstrong, which faces Culler, are closed permanently, pending the completion of the east wing of the student center. The university plans to open a temporary walkway between Culler and Shideler Hall early in the spring semester to reroute foot traffic in the area.

Students can also go around Armstrong on the west side, between the student center and Kreger Hall.

Director of university communications Claire Wagner said the area between Armstrong and Culler will become part of an indoor atrium for the east wing. The construction on the new wing, previously known as "Phase 2," will connect Armstrong to Culler Hall with an indoor pedestrian walkway on both the first and second floors, and turn the former physics building into space for more offices and student organizations. The project is expected to finish before the 2017-2018 school year.

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The physics department, once housed in Culler, is now primarily in Kreger Hall, which was under construction last year and opened its doors in the fall.

Katie Wilson, director of the Armstrong Student Center, believes the new wing of Armstrong is going to make the student center more useful to the student body.

"Career services is getting a central location on campus, and I think the students will be well served by that and hopefully will visit it more often," Wilson said. "There will also be medium-sized meeting rooms that will suit student [organization] meetings."

Currently, Career Services is in Hoyt Hall on Western campus.

Most of the 16 study rooms in Armstrong's current space hold four to eight students, similar to the rooms at King and B.E.S.T. Libraries. Wilson said the rooms in the east wing will be more similar to classrooms capable of holding 30-50 students for organization meetings.

In addition to relocating career services and adding meeting rooms, the east wing of Armstrong will offer a new coffee shop called Cafe Lux and a bookstore outpost with day-to-day essentials. The space will also have senate chambers for student government to conduct meetings and hearings.

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There's also the Red Zone - an entertainment venue with games like pool and air hockey, and numerous televisions which Wilson hopes will have more channels than the current university cable offers. It will also have a small stage for performances and karaoke nights. Construction on Armstrong began in fall 2011, and the center officially opened for students in January 2014. The old student center across the street, Phillip R. Shriver Center, now contains IT services.

Although the closed sidewalk will cause some students to reroute, Wilson said the east wing construction has been the plan all along and will benefit students in the future.

"The plans had always included Culler, but the whole building couldn't be done at once," Wilson said. "Securing the funding and renovating Kreger had to happen before the rest of Armstrong could happen."