Union’s fifth floor latest renovation provides space for small organizations

By Lindsay Carroll

The fifth floor of the William Pitt Union just got a makeover.

Once home to a computer management office, a dance studio, a meeting room and office space for student organizations, the floor now holds additional meeting space, a lounge area, a new dance studio with Wii equipment and student organization office space.

The project, which Pitt spokesman John Fedele said cost almost $1.5 million, resulted from coordinated efforts by Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey, facilities management, architects, designers and students.

The new meeting rooms, which Humphrey said were always a priority during the renovations, now have hard flooring, AV capabilities, projectors and television screens, as well as counter space for refreshment areas. These areas will be available for student rental, like other rooms in the Union.

In the hallway near the elevator, there is a lounge that features calming green colors and streamlined furniture.

On the right side of the elevator is a new dance studio with mirrors, handrails and television screens. The screens will be used for Wii rentals, which will be arranged at a reception area across the hall from the studio.

The room with the reception area used to be office space for University computer management, Humphrey said. Now, it will be used for smaller student organizations without permanent office space. It’s the last part of the floor to be finished — hopefully, within two weeks, she said.

John Hoehn, the Union’s assistant manager who helped decorate the floor, said there will be a wall made of recycled glass, as well as columns in the middle with whiteboard paint for students to write dates of activities — kind of like sponsored graffiti, with free advertising for events.

Once it’s finished, organizations will be able to arrange temporary use of computers and telephones for management activities with a receptionist. Humphrey said this system is similar to those at other universities.

In a smaller room adjacent to the reception and computer area will be storage and workspace. There will be an island counter in the center for poster-making and other activities, as well as stackable storage boxes of different sizes along the walls.

Student groups that used the fifth floor were moved to the ninth floor.

Anthony Lyas, of the Freedom Honor Society, said his organization learned it was being reassigned to the ninth floor through e-mail and that its members were not informed of plans.

He said it was difficult for visitors to find his group, which has been detrimental to the organization.

But Matt Grau, of Pitt’s Rowing Club, said he was satisfied with the process.

“Moving floors didn’t affect us that much,” he said. “We found the Union staff to be very helpful.”

The University experimented with, and sometimes nixed, several ideas for the project.

Humphrey said she talked to hundreds of students at various meetings and asked what they needed in the Union. An idea for a relaxation area translated into false rumors of a spa being built on the fifth floor.

Humphrey said ultimately, she found that students wanted the space to organize and coordinate their activities. Student Government Board members said they wanted more storage and office space for campus organizations. Other students said they wanted more hard surface floors for dance groups.

Humphrey also said these rooms will have a more modern look.

“It will be blue and gold with a twist,” she said. “It’s kind of funky.”

She said the renovation project was planned along with renovations of the sixth floor and Nordy’s Place, but that it took a while to coordinate ideas. She said she was hoping to organize an open house when everything was finished.

Humphrey said one of the most important parts of her job is to help students get connected to organizations like those using the new space.

“This is a big place to be by yourself,” she said. “Everyone just needs a family.”