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UNC continues multiple construction projects including library café

The construction site of UNC's new medical education building, Roper Hall, is pictured on Jan. 8, 2023.

Next school year, students won’t have to give up their favorite desk in Davis Library in the middle of a study session when they get hungry — there will be a café right inside the library. 

Over the spring semester, students can also expect to see the beginning of construction on the new building at Kenan-Flagler Business School and the partial completion of Roper Hall, the new medical education building for the UNC School of Medicine. 

Café in Davis Library

At its November meeting, the UNC Board of Governors approved the allocation of University funds for the construction of a café in Davis Library. 

University Architect Evan Yassky said they are nearing the end of the design phase for the project and have already received several bids for the café’s construction. He said they hope to complete most of the work over the summer to avoid the complications of working in a highly populated area of campus. 

“During the semester, there's just so many people coming in and out of that building and the adjacent buildings that it's not easy,” Yassky said. “That's why we're kind of targeting late spring to start, right after graduation.”

The café will be situated on the first floor of the library, in the room with the large windows closest to the Pit. It will be the first North Carolina location of Pret A Manger, which sells sandwiches, soups and — of course — coffee. 

The project is a collaboration between University Libraries and Carolina Dining Services that was proposed to alleviate some of the traffic at Lenoir Dining Hall, especially around lunchtime, Yassky said. 

Director of Library Communications Judy Panitch said cafés and libraries just make sense together. 

“We're excited about the partnership and about the opportunity to create a great environment in Davis Library for students and visitors to study, connect and spend time together," Panitch said in a statement.

Steven D. Bell Hall

Construction on Steven D. Bell Hall, the new addition to Kenan-Flagler, has been delayed because of bidding and budgeting complications, Yassky said. He said the construction estimates provided by bidding firms are much higher than anticipated.

“The goal was to actually begin construction this month,” Yassky said. “But it looks like that's not going to happen, because we are having to kind of circle back to address this large delta, or gap, between the amount of money we had set aside for the project and how much it's apparently going to cost.”

He also said the building will be situated directly behind the parking deck, closer to the main part of campus than the rest of the business school. It will also include a glass connector to the existing business school building and an entrance from William Blythe Drive, the road on which Ram Village 1, 2 and 3 are located.

The new building will allow the business school to admit 50% more undergraduates into the program, which is currently only able to admit around half of its applicants each year, according to a statement released on the business school's website.

Business administration major Logan Schmitt said when he was deciding on a university, he had to consider the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to major in business at UNC because Kenan-Flagler admissions are so competitive.

“In the long run, (the new building) is definitely going to be a great idea because the business school is really overcrowded right now,” Schmitt said. “And the demand for undergrad business education is only going to keep growing.” 

The construction is projected to take about two years, but Yassky said it’s difficult to say when it will actually begin.

“It's not something that we have a lot of control over,” Yassky said. “We're hopeful that we can start soon, but I can't really be any more definitive than that.”

Roper Hall

The medical education building for the UNC School of Medicine, known officially as Roper Hall, has been under construction since 2020 and is set to finish over the summer. 

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Because of numerous delays over the course of the project, the School of Medicine has been looking to have access to the building before its full completion, Yassky said. With the contractors, the school has worked out a phased occupancy plan where some parts of the building will be in use before the semester ends. 

“The (School of Medicine) was very anxious to begin using the building,” Yassky said. “And they felt like if we could get access to these spaces earlier than these other spaces, that would help them with classes and different programs that they're trying to run.”  

The remaining unfinished spaces are set to be administrative offices for both the School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals, who provided some of the funding for the building in exchange for the space, Yassky said.

“As we look to the future of our medical school, Roper Hall is essential to our plans to expand class size to better serve our state and to achieve our vision of being the nation’s leading public school of medicine,” said Karlina Matthews, the UNC School of Medicine's associate dean for administration, in a statement.

Kenan Stadium Addition 

In July 2022, construction began on an addition to the northwest end of Kenan Stadium, which will add more training and meeting space for the football team and staff. 

“It's not space for the public or general student space,” Yassky said. “It's really team space. And the primary piece of this is a sports medicine training space that they lacked compared to peer colleges and universities.”

The construction is still ongoing, and completion is projected for late spring, Yassky said. The early stages of the project involved the demolition of the staircase leading to the Bell Tower area, but it will be rebuilt at the end of the project.