A weekend construction push in the Nebraska Union allowed a new welcome desk/coffee bar and redesigned Runza to open in time for the start of UNL’s spring semester.
The improvements — along with other ongoing upgrades — are part of a $2.1 million redesign of the first floor of the Nebraska Union. The renovation is designed to improve traffic flow and update the appearance of the Nebraska Union to help with student recruitment.
“The plan is to have as much of the building open and operational as possible,” said Charlie Francis, director of the Nebraska Unions. “We realize that ongoing construction will inconvenience the university community a little and we are working to minimize that as much as possible.
“When the project is complete, we will have a beautifully renovated space for our campus community to enjoy.”
The project includes upgrades to entrances, flooring and furniture; improvements to lounge areas to encourage student collaboration; and the reconfiguration of several first-floor features.
Barring a major setback, Francis said both the redesigned welcome desk and Caffina Café coffee bar will open for business Jan. 13. The location — often one of the first visitors see after ascending the stairs on the union’s north entrance — will become a one-stop “concierge” for campus visitors and students.
“We are completely changing how that information desk functions,” Francis said. “Our expectation is to make the new welcome desk the campus hub of information. If someone walks up and wants to know what movies are showing at the Ross, we will take the time to find out.”
Francis said the 15 students have been hired to staff the welcome desk.
The welcome desk will continue to sell Pepsi products, but no food items. The Caffina Café will offer coffee and an expanded menu, including sandwiches, salads, pastries and some snack items.
Francis said the University Bookstore plans to expand the selection of items in its market space, making up for the selection lost through changes to the old information desk area.
Runza, which is also undergoing work to upgrade and renovate its large dining area. Officials from Runza said the restaurant will be open by Jan. 13.
Next door to the south, The Crib is being upgraded, including the relocation of the corn-design stained glass window, new flooring and new furnishings. A second entrance between the Crib and Runza is also being added.
Construction in The Crib will continue. Completion is dependent on the arrival of the new flooring, said Dan Reeg in UNL Facilities Planning and Construction and the project manager for the union renovation.
Installation of flooring will begin immediately after it is scheduled to arrive on Jan. 22. New flooring in other areas on the first floor, including corridors and lounge areas, will follow.
As that flooring is being put in, egress paths will be established by the contractor to allow students, faculty, staff and visitors to navigate around the construction.
When completed, Francis said, the union’s first floor should feel brighter, more open and allow for a more natural flow throughout the building. In addition, the union is getting new Husker-friendly branding, graphics and paint throughout the first floor, he said.
The project — minus all of the new furniture, which is expected to be in place by spring break — should be completed by the end of February.
Meanwhile, work has also begun at the former Sbarro location in the food court to transform the space into a Subway Pizza Express. The restaurant should be open in February, Francis said.