KU to raze, rebuild Burge Union with money from student fee increase

Building will close for good in March; students want new facility to house student-serving offices and reflection room

The Burge Union, shown on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, is slated to be razed and rebuilt and part of Kansas University's Central District redevelopment plans.

Kansas University’s Burge Union is slated to be torn down and rebuilt by fall 2018, and student money and input are shaping what it will look like.

The Student Senate voted Wednesday night to approve a required campus fee that will begin next year and last the next 31 years, until 2048. The move extends the current Student Union Renovation Fee — which would have sunset in 2020 — and increases it by $4.90 per year, from $13.80 to $18.70.

The student money will fund roughly two-thirds of the cost to rebuild Burge, plus be a dependable stream of revenue well into the future, said David Mucci, director of KU Memorial Unions.

Addressing the underused Burge is important, Mucci said.

With shovels already churning on a major overhaul of KU’s Central District, plans have had to move fast.

“This really anticipates campus moving farther to the west,” Mucci said. “This side really is going to be the new center of campus in a decade … this is basically buying our place in the future.”

The Burge Union, shown on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, is slated to be razed and rebuilt and part of Kansas University's Central District redevelopment plans.

Opened in 1980, the existing Burge would have required $8 million to $11 million in improvements in the short term, Mucci said.

There is still no pricetag for rebuilding, because designs have yet to be drawn, but Mucci estimated it will cost in the neighborhood of $8 million to $10 million.

Student Senate representatives have been in talks with KU Memorial Unions since this spring, negotiating funding and plans for the new building, said Tyler Childress, a second-year law student and chairman of the Student Senate finance committee.

The resulting agreement “gets us what we want,” Childress said.

According to “very conceptual” sketches shown Wednesday by KU Memorial Unions director of building services Lisa Kring, that includes:

• A 33,500-square-foot, one-and-a-half story building with basement. Without extra student dollars, plans called for a 26,000-square-foot building.

• A high-ceilinged ballroom that could be divided and configured in different ways.

• A reflection room for students of all faiths to meditate or pray, similar to one recently opened across campus in the Kansas Union.

• Office space for the new Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center (though KU administrators have not confirmed a decision to locate the office there) and the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity, currently in Wescoe Hall.

• Office space for Legal Services for Students, currently located inside Burge.

• Gender neutral restrooms.

• A coffee shop and convenience store.

• Lounge space.

Another demand: Students don’t want the new Burge named after a business, even if one were to donate money for it, Childress said.

“Since the students are paying for it, we wanted it to reflect a member of the campus community,” he said.

While the final power to name KU buildings rests with the Kansas Board of Regents, when the time comes Childress said the Student Senate planned to be involved in the process of recommending a name to KU’s building naming committee and, ultimately, the Regents.

With the student fee approved, Mucci said KU Memorial Unions can move forward with formal building plans and designs. The project developer and financier is a company called Edgemoor, selected in June.

He said that while student fees and union-generated revenue will cover the cost of the new building, the project is part of a larger finance package for the entire Central District — which, among other things, calls for constructing new integrated science buildings and residential facilities on the slope between Naismith Drive and Daisy Hill.

Plans call for rebuilding the new Burge right next to where the old one is now, and slightly to the southeast, Mucci said.

The Burge will close for good in March, Kring said, around the time the new DeBruce Center is scheduled to open.