The larger point of contention has been over the lobby/lounge.
The debate over some aspects of the planned remodeling of the Memorial Union continued Tuesday night, as the building's Reinvestment Design Committee met to prioritize a budget and address $5.2 million in cuts to the project, which should begin in the autumn of 2012.
Beginning with a 10-minute open forum, members of the community were invited to ask questions and voice their opinions about the renovation plans. Of those in attendance, the key concerns expressed were over the intended addition of a "glass box" lobby/lounge onto the lakeshore side of the Union Theater, which opponents have vociferously argued will obscure a large portion of the Terrace's westward view, as well as force the removal of a 100-year old oak tree in the construction process.
Citing the findings of Dr. Bruce Allison, a professional arborist and UW-Madison professor who was hired to study the oak tree in question, student project manager Colin Plunkett vouched for the necessity of removing the tree.
"Dr. Allison has had the opportunity to study all the Terrace's canopy trees, including the tree to the east of the theater wing," said Plunkett. "He does have a few concerns with the tree, as he has discovered a large amount of decay in the middle of the tree as well as root rot. His studies show that the tree is actually unhealthy."
Plunkett then advised members with further questions to check out a video interview conducted with Dr. Allison near the tree in question.
But the larger point of contention has been over the lobby/lounge and that point alone generated a 30-minute discussion. In light of a recent campus-wide advisory referendum, the committee decided that there was enough of a student voter turnout to warrant a revision to the 2011 design plans. The largest voter turnout in four years, 10.5 percent of the student population -- 4,703 voters -- was represented, with those opposed to the lobby's construction winning by 23 votes.
"We've taken the results of the referendum very seriously," said ex-officio member Wendy von Below. "And we've met recently with the campus architect to address this concern and begin the conversation of appealing to everyone's needs."
As it was outlined in a 2006 referendum, the original plan for the lounge called only for a slight extension onto the Union Theater, a relative "bump" compared to what is outlined on the 2011 plans, which would situate the lounge completely over what now serves as a terrace seating area and space for the Hoofers Club. It was decided during the course of the meeting that the best course of action would be to follow the original 2006 plan as closely as possible, so that both the westward view from the Terrace and plans for a new student lounge could be preserved.
But since Tuesday's meeting was simply a prioritization of available funds, those with concerns should keep their eyes peeled for future committee meetings on the project.