UNF Campus Update

Katie Gile

By: Katie Gile, Staff Writer

 

Biological Sciences Building

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

 

As students count down for the completion of UNF’s numerous construction projects, one mammoth project recently opened to the delight of students and professors alike.

 

The Biological Sciences Building, 59, is the newest addition to UNF’s educational landscape. The 118,000 square-foot project sits adjacent to the Social Sciences Building, 51, and offers several improvements to the original biology building, said UNF Biology Chair and Coastal Biology Flagship Director Dr. Courtney Hackney.

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

 

Along with more than doubling its number of laboratories and increasing its size by 25 percent, the new building has a roof-top greenhouse used to raise coral and sea grasses and to hold collections for botany classes. The design of the building also includes a courtyard planted exclusively with native-to-Florida species for botany classes, which allows a separate area for medical science and provides space for experimentation in all the biological sciences, Hackney said.

 

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

“It’s great because we have faculty doing everything from work on viruses to whales,” he said.

 

The UNF Coastal Biology Flagship program has been given specific room to flourish in the new facility. Six of the 27 research laboratories contained within are designated for coastal biology, and a 6,000 gallon salt-water reserve has been installed for research.

 

Hackney said many classes have already moved into the bottom lecture wing of the new building and others will follow suit as soon as possible.

 

The quick move, as well as the impetus for the building’s construction, came in large part from necessity, Hackney said.

 

“We simply could not teach any more classes because we had nowhere to teach them, unless we were running classes from 10 at night to six in the morning,” he said. “Every lab was full and running full speed.”

 

Though many parts of the building are now welcoming classes inside and high-tech major equipment is in place, basic touches like projectors and software are still being installed.

 

While state Public Educational Capital Outlay funds paid for the construction and amenities of the new building, other necessities, like equipment for the extensive laboratories, will be purchased and installed as funds become available, Hackney said.

 

“There was no money appropriated for that,” Hackney said. “We’re moving into twice the number of teaching labs as we had last semester, and there’s not enough equipment to fill them all. So, some labs will have the bare minimum until we get equipment.”

 

Hackney said the biology department is looking for donations from private individuals and companies. Though the department has had some luck acquiring donations, there is a great deal left to be funded, he said.

 

“Science equipment is really expensive,” Hackney said. “Even a basic microscope for a freshman lab is well over $1,000. That sort of thing adds up when you’re teaching in 17 laboratories.”

 

Despite the lack of funding, Hackney is optimistic for the future this expansive facility provides UNF, both as a stand-alone research source and a cooperative partner for the Jacksonville-based marine program at Jacksonville University.

 

“Our facility and faculty are very large compared to JU,” Hackney said. “We’re not on a river, but we have faculty members based at the GTM Reserve near Ponte Vedra, where we have grad students work. Waterfront’s expensive. But in the new building, we have everything we need.”

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

 

Along with its many improvements, the new building provides a sense of camaraderie to the biology department. It allows the entire biology department to work within one structure, which solved a difficulty for the department, Hackney said.

 

“I don’t know that everyone appreciated how large the biology department is because we’ve been scattered in several buildings across campus,” Hackney said. “Four of our faculty were located out at the golf course complex, so they weren’t even where people could see them normally, but now all biology faculty will be in one place.”

 

The new building also allows for the biology department’s nearly 50 graduate students to work, which came as a welcome surprise to Kyle Russell, a UNF biology graduate student.

 

“It’s nice to have a building to our own, rather than sharing with chemistry or physics,” Russell said. “We have our own part of campus. It’ll be great for getting lots of biology students interested in UNF.”

 

Hackney said another benefit of the building was its unique, state-of-the-art design.

 

“The building was designed from scratch with the idea to teach all the classes we do now and make room for the ones we will in the future,” Hackney said. “The goal was to have a university that will not be antiquated in a few years. We should be able to be in this building for quite a while.”

Hackney said all elements within the building will be completely available to students and professors by the start of the Summer semester.

 

The following are projects in the works at UNF, listed in order of their estimated completion.


Wellness Center

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

 

The highly anticipated multi-floor fitness center is due to open for student business at the end of May, said Zak Ovadia, director of UNF Campus Planning, Design and Construction.

 

Though timing has been something of a hiccup for this project, which was originally slated for substantial completion in February, Ovadia said the project is running smoothly now.

 

“We continuously monitor the work and pressure the contractors to make sure the work is done on time,” he said.

 

The fitness center will be internally functional at its opening, but may not be in full external glory for some time after.

 

All interior construction and amenities will be functional and available to center users, including a climbing wall, indoor running track, spinning, yoga and aerobics rooms, showers, locker rooms, a Jamba Juice bar and a full array of fitness equipment, Ovadia said.

 

Bus Routes & Arena Parking

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

 

The construction zone nearest to the Wellness Center has a number of projects kicking up dust, all of which Vince Smyth, director of UNF Auxiliary Services, anticipates will be ready for the Summer semester.

 

First among them is the paving and lining of the road that runs behind the Arena and Harmon Stadium, then lets out at the roundabout at Lot 18. Chief among its purposes, the road will serve as a path for the all-new shuttle route to take effect at the start of summer.

 

The route will run in a straight line from UNF Hall to Lot 18, skipping Lot 14 and the Library entirely, Smyth said.

 

He said he anticipates some students will chafe slightly at the change, but the new route should cut travel time significantly.

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

 

“Whenever we have change on campus, there tend to be students who want to hang on to a component that was changed,” Smyth said. Once people start using the new route, they will find that it is more efficient and adjust to the change, he said.

 

Another of the projects in the works is the paving of the parking area on the east side of the Arena. Originally a gravel lot, the new lot will be paved and painted with 76 regulation parking spaces, a 15-20 car cutback, Smyth said.

 

The third of the projects dug behind the orange barricades is the extension of utilities from the Arena to the upcoming Wellness Center. It began as a project of convenience and will transfer hot and cold water to the center.

 

Osprey Cafe

 

The four-floor dining facility, still due to open for business the last week of August, will feature two floors of dining space, in addition to housing the Faculty Association, Campus Planning, Design and Construction office and special event/lounge areas for faculty, Ovadia said. The building itself will likely be complete earlier in August, but planned employee training and various opening activities will push the opening date back, Ovadia said.

 

Email Katie Gile at [email protected]

 

Check out this animated short based on the story you’ve just read. It was created by a student in the Applied Journalism class at UNF.