Students vote to build new UWM student union

Proposed UWM Union

In a student referendum conducted March 29-30, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students approved the use of segregated fees to rebuild the current student union to provide much-needed space and upgrade systems and services for students.

The new building, which could be completed by fall 2018, will expand the current space by about 30,000 square feet.

“The vote on the new building serves as a symbol of positive student engagement in campus life at UWM,” says Michael R. Laliberte, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Rebuilding will allow us to incorporate the quality of services students want in a more cost-effective way than addressing extensive repairs now and putting off upgrades until later.”

The current building, which opened in 1956 and was enlarged in 1972, has outlived its useful life and would require an estimated $75 million in repairs in the near future. Rebuilding the union now enables the university to take advantage of historically low interest rates and low construction costs.

A new student union will create an updated image for UWM, Laliberte says. It will support the electrical requirements necessary for the latest technologies in building systems, interactive communications and audio/visual capabilities. Plans also call for the new union to be a national model for sustainability and premiere location for arts and performances.

Some of the new features include: gardens and terraces for student use on the building’s roofs, expanded dining choices that include healthy, farm-to-table options and a first-floor Gasthaus that will allow music performances to spill onto Spaights Plaza.

The $160 million cost of the project will be paid for through gradually increasing student segregated fees beginning in 2015 and continuing through at least 2034.

The referendum result will next be confirmed by the UWM student committee on Segregated Fee Allocation and then must be approved by Chancellor Michael R. Lovell before being voted on by the UW Board of Regents.