Interview with Zane Reif, Union Director

Zane Reif, Union Director

“Based on this, before the senate agrees to start the fee in 2012 or 2013 it should ask about projected revenue over the life of the project from the student fee.  Is the university making rosy forecasts of 45,000 students paying this fee in 2020?  What happens if UNT doesn’t reach that number? You should make sure the fee will not be increased over the life of the project, that the savings from early payments go back into the union (future upgrades) and that any reduction in costs (donors cover the new Syndicate or something) would lower the fee.”

You have a very good observation.  We have been projecting that UNT will reach its ultimate goal of 45,000 students by 2020.  If for some reason there is a fluctuation in enrollment, starting the fee earlier assures students that the University Union they requested will actually be built and that a fee increase will not likely be assessed during that period.  Fiscal responsibility is very important and by assessing the Union Fee earlier, the Union Master Plan Committee can protect the students from any fluctuations in construction costs, interest rates, inflation, and enrollment.

All savings, if there are any, will go back into the University Union.  At this point, the Union Board of Directors, composed of primarily students, will be able to dictate how money is spent.  The money could be spent on services and programs offered by the Union (i.e.  Discovery Park Union Services, Concert Fee, additional University Program Council events, added technology, etc.).  This fee will not be used to fund any other projects and will remain solely with the students and the Union Master Plan. 

Any money that is collected through donation, will be used on the University Union Master Plan and could be used to lower the cost of the project.  Unfortunately, most of this is still an unknown and probably will be until after the construction is completed.

“Do you save as many trees as possible or let them be cut down creating yet another sun baked outdoor eating area no one uses? All those “roof top garden” dining areas will only seat a dozen or so.”

This is a great question!  The Union will be very sustainable.  In fact, if everything goes as planned, we should have a LEED Platinum building.  With that being said, trees are a very important component of that and we will do everything we can to preserve or relocate the trees around the facility.  Of course, a few may not be able to be saved.  If that is the case, we will follow the University of North Texas “Tree Preservation” Policy 8.6.  Within this policy are the guidelines for the removal, relocation, and preservation of current trees on campus.

Secondary, you had a concern about the sun baking outdoor eating areas and limited seating in the “roof top garden” areas.  I can assure you that we will do everything possible to use natural vegetation in these areas that will preserve as much energy and water as possible.  While we know it can quite hot during the summer, our intent is to offer as much shade as possible whether it is through natural vegetation or umbrellas. 

“The senate should ask if window cleaning would be part of the maintenance of the union and you should ask the architects about designing to save some of the trees, and keep the birds away from the lanterns.

Yes, we recognize that more windows means more dirt and “suicidal pigeons.”  J  Currently, the University Union does have a window cleaning contract to have a company come out and clean as many windows as possible on a bi-annual process.  After getting into the facility, we can definitely make sure that this is an adequate amount or ask for the company to come out a few more times per year.  Thanks for the suggestion!

That is a lot of money-what happens to this NEW building (transition areas) AFTER the union is finished?  Is this remodeling part of the expense of building the union? Are we paying for 2 buildings?”

You are correct, some money will have to earmarked for these transition spaces during the actually renovation/construction of the Union Master Plan.  With that being said, demolition and relocation costs for academic services located in Scoular and Stovall Halls will come from a separate funding fee that has not been determined yet.  It will not be from the Union Fee.  Any costs associated with demolition and relocation of student affairs, retail, and dining within the Union Fee have already been absorbed into the costs that have been presented to students with a $115 fee increase.  The Union Master Plan Committee will not be coming back to students to ask students to pay for these relocation and demolition costs.

As far as space is concerned, the UNT System is looking at placing offices, services, and spaces throughout campus to ensure that students will be able to enjoy all of them without interruption.  Academic programs and services moving from Scoular and Stovall Halls will have comparable space on campus with no interruption in their services or ability to conduct classes as they are currently doing in these buildings.  Currently, all of these programs will be located on the Denton campus and be given comparable spaces.  Your concerns about the UNT Press, Texas State Historical Association, and dance programs are very valid.  Please know that the Union Master Plan is very sensitive to their needs and will ensure they enjoy all of the amenities that they currently have within the facilities.  Additionally, please be aware that all of the services that are offered in the Union will continue to be offered during renovation and construction.  Students will continue to enjoy the options, services, and programs that are a part of the current Union.  They will just be displaced for a couple of years.

While transition programs are being formulated right now, not all of the information is in.  The UNT System will be making an announcement sometime shortly to discuss possible relocation sites and timelines.

“The inside (Union) looks like Collin College Spring Creek campus but without the cool interior fountains. In other words, I wasn’t wowed by the interior plans and the outside had a lot of downsides. And for the price we are being asked to pay-I’m not impressed, I’m shocked. The College of Business got a BRAND new building for $70 million, Life Sciences got a new 4 story building welded onto an older, remodeled, upgraded building for $34 million, what is driving the cost of the remodeled union to $187 million?”

Please keep in mind that what we have shared with you are tentative drawings of some of the selected spaces within the proposed University Union.  It is the intention of the Union Master Plan to have this building be better than any other facility on campus with the highest levels of technology and finishes.  This cannot be portrayed in five or six pictures you were presented, but the hope is that you can see a glimpse of how impressive this building can be for students.  The costs of the University Union is estimated to be $120 million.  After a loan and interest, the amount goes up significantly.  The same can be said of the College of Business.  With that being noted, the current University Union is beyond a simple remodel and upgrade.  To remodel and upgrade the facility…just to get it to safety code…would cost the students $34 million.  After that, you would not see any real improvements in the facility other than mechanical, engineering, and plumbing.  There would be no increase in student organization space, lounge space, dining services, meeting rooms, etc.  By starting the fee earlier and agreeing to fund this project, students are making an investment in their future.  By having nicer facilities, we attract more students and better faculty.  When we attract more students and better faculty, the value of your degree becomes significantly greater, which means that opportunities in the job market begin to open more for graduates of UNT.

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