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Nowicki depicts vision to better ‘junky old houses’

Drastic renovations are in store for Central Campus in the coming months.

At Campus Council’s Thursday night meeting, Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education, and Zoila Airall, assistant vice president of student affairs for campus life, discussed the renovation of Central Campus and their vision of making it a more friendly, social environment and not a collection of “junky old houses that [are] just filled with stuff.” They also spoke about campus life and the importance of students staying informed about campus issues.

“Nobody was in the mood to think about Central because it was in the past,” Nowicki said.

With plans to build New Campus delayed due to the economic downturn, Nowicki and Residence Life and Housing Services officials have turned instead to Central Campus beautification projects. Nowicki noted that there are four main problems with Central Campus that make it unappealing to students—there is a lack of dining options, transportation is sparse, the campus is “scary” and there are few recreational options.

To address the problems of food and fun, plans have been made to bulldoze the historic buildings of Mill Village and construct in their place buildings that are more functional and safe. Duke had an agreement with the city of Durham to maintain the historic buildings. But after inspection last year, it was found that the buildings were too termite-infested to be renovated and had to be torn down, further delaying the renovation of Central Campus.

There will be four new buildings constructed to recreate the historical houses of Mill Village, maintaining the “historical charm” that it originally had, Nowicki said.

Two of these buildings will be larger social-study spaces that are very “programmable” Nowicki said.

The Central Campus convenience store Uncle Harry’s will be renovated and turned into a more functional store with a separate storage warehouse. The fourth building will be converted into an exercise room. To help make the Mill Village more appealing to students, landscaping will be done on the grounds and more lighting will be put in. Many students have expressed safety concerns and Nowicki speculates that this may be brought on by some environmental factors.

“Central Campus is actually not unsafe if you look at data,” Nowicki said. “If it feels unsafe, that’s a problem.”

Nowicki said at the meeting that one problem is that there is no main route through campus—no walkway students can take to ensure that they see other students and feel safe. More lights will also be added over the course of the year.

The newly renovated area is forecasted to open by the beginning of the Spring semester.

A new restaurant will be placed next to the Central Campus pool, according to the plans presented at the meeting. The restaurant will boast gourmet dining, similar to local eateries such as Foster’s Market and Guglhupf Bakery and Patisserie, Nowicki said, adding that it “will not be the Great Hall.”

In other business:

President Stephen Temple, a junior, noted that Campus Council is running on a $152,000 budget for the year—$37,000 of which was leftover from last year, approximately $3,000 less than usual.

The council has allotted $25,000 for a band to perform during the Old Duke Party in April. Although no specific information could be released, Programming Chair Ben Goldenberg, a sophomore, said the group is looking for a “contemporary band.”

Additionally, Campus Council has budgeted $20,000 for Last Day of Classes celebrations—$5,000 less than last year, a result of the smaller rollover budget, said Treasurer Sean Puneky, a senior.

Junior John Pryor, Campus Council facilities and services chair, presented his committee’s idea of purchasing more “large products” for campus this year.

Among these would be a reverse vending machine, which would take in cans, crush them, and return a few cents back per can. Although installation of such a large device would be expensive, it would be a green contribution to campus and would reduce waste, Pryor said. The initiative would cost $100,000.

New Campus Council members joined the table this week, and Temple said he was very impressed by the new members, adding that it seems like Campus Council is “gearing up and gaining momentum.”

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