Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.

AWOL

Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.

AWOL

Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.

AWOL

AU president search had limited student, late faculty input
Magazine Release
The Magazine has been released!

Construction in MGC and new buildings offers glimpse of campus future

$103 Million Student Thriving Complex and MGC under construction
Construction+in+MGC+and+new+buildings+offers+glimpse+of+campus+future
Ben Ackman

Renovations are underway in Mary Graydon Center and Butler Pavilion as part of American University’s Student Thriving Complex initiative. The Sports Center Annex and Meltzer Center are also in the process of being built.

The interior of MGC’s third floor is completely under construction and new walls have been laid out. Work has also begun on elevated passageways between Bender Arena and the anticipated new Sports Center Annex.

The new third floor of MGC will be centered around student life with common spaces for general use and meeting rooms for campus organizations to reserve, AU Assistant Vice President of Planning & Project Management Jonathan McCann said.

The projects the university is undertaking in MGC and in nearby areas outlines future plans for student resources and climate goals that will impact the student experience in the years following the completion of construction.

Katherine Seri Chang
Katherine Seri Chang

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Center for New Student and Family Programs, Center for Leadership and Community Engagement and Center for Student Involvement will all be housed on MGC’s third floor, with cooperative spaces between their offices to encourage collaboration between departments.

The floor plan also includes incubator spaces, solo pods, a reflection room and multiple all-gender restrooms with completely redone plumbing, McCann said.

Courtesy of AU University Communications and Marketing.

Addressing concerns about hazardous levels of asbestos in MGC, McCann said asbestos had been found and removed during demolition in December 2023 in compliance with Washington’s safety regulations. MGC’s second floor is slated to receive the same treatment this coming summer, McCann said.

The new Sports Center Annex will be connected via footbridge to Bender Arena, similar to the connection between Leonard and McDowell Halls.

For the annex, 85 geothermal wells, each around 500 feet deep, will be drilled underneath the new buildings. These wells will transfer heat up from below ground during the winter and send it down during the summer to reduce energy usage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The roofs of Butler and the annex will also be covered in solar panels, McCann said.

AU aims for the Meltzer Center to be its first LEED Platinum Certified building, McCann said. LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – grades buildings on energy efficiency, use of local or recycled materials and other metrics of ecological sustainability. Platinum is the system’s highest scoring bracket, according to the United States Green Building Council

McKinley Hall, the School of International Service, and multiple buildings on East Campus have Gold LEED certifications, which are the second highest certification.

Ben Ackman
Ben Ackman

There have been plans to convert MGC’s third floor into student space since 2014, when then-student government president Sophia Wirth began campaigning to convert MGC’s third floor into a student union area, according to a 2014 article from The Eagle.

After a referendum calling for the floor to be converted into student space passed in 2015, University President Neil Kerwin told student government that AU intended to expand student space into the third floor, according to a 2015 Eagle article.

The School of Communication vacated the third floor of MGC to move to the McKinley Building in 2014, according to a Feb. 5, 2014, memo from the president’s office. 

Katherine Seri Chang

 

Katherine Seri Chang

The Meltzer Center, meanwhile, is under construction. The new building will “enhance the development of [AU’s] student-athletes, ensure their success in and out of competition, and bolster the overall athletic and recreational experience for the entire AU community,” according to the campus plan website

DAVIS Construction, the contractors overseeing the project, hope to have laid the center’s foundation by the start of the Fall 2024 semester, DAVIS Construction Project Manager Max Wnorowski said.

As part of the Student Thriving Complex project, the school is also developing the Well-Being Commons, according to the campus plan website. The commons will be housed in renovated parts of the existing Sports Center and the future Sports Center Annex, according to the university website. 

The Well-Being Commons will consist of the Center for Well-Being Programs and Psychological Services and a Student Health Center relocated from McCabe Hall.

Courtesy of AU University Communications and Marketing.

The project is a considerable and timely investment into the betterment of student life, as the university struggles to meet undergraduate retention targets.

“Our students must thrive while they are here,” said President Sylvia Burwell in a April 7, 2023, letter. “Building community helps to create many opportunities to thrive and American University is making the largest investment in student thriving in our history.”

Ben Ackman
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Ben Ackman
Ben Ackman, Staff Writer
Ben Ackman (He/Him) is a a freshman from Jersey City, New Jersey. He is a photographer and writer in the Multimedia department. He enjoys photography, reading, and working out.
Katherine Seri Chang
Katherine Seri Chang, Staff Writer
Seri Chang (any pronouns) is a sophomore majoring in film and media arts with a minor in audio technology. This semester, Seri is helping AWOL with a magazine story, podcast, multimedia, and design when she joined thinking that she was just going to do photos. She likes anything cool and wants to own 30 cameras.