Freeborn Hall to be closed summer 2014

Freeborn Hall, an on-campus lecture hall and event venue, is to be renovated due to necessary seismic updates. The hall is in critical condition and renovations need to be done as soon as possible. It is likely to close down for renovations in summer 2014.

“After being looked at again this summer, it was decided that Freeborn Hall needed to be seismically renovated. It is hardly safe enough for the uses it has now. According to code, it should not be used as a lecture hall. It is barely within legal parameters,” said ASUCD Senator Miles Thomas.

A significant problem with shutting Freeborn down temporarily is the loss of a massive lecture hall on campus. Freeborn Hall can seat 1,800 people and losing this space will cause major issues for professors and students. There are no other spaces on campus that could seat large classes and the new California Lecture Hall is not scheduled to open until fall of 2017.

“Student government is trying to figure out where we would put these lectures. The hall may stay open through the summer because of this issue,” Thomas said.

The future for Freeborn Hall is currently uncertain. Prices for renovation will cost $10 million to $13 million. The renovation would include steel stabilizers and would make the hall earthquake-safe. Demolishing the building and replacing it would cost $20 million to $30 million.

The UC Davis administration is in favor of creating a whole new building that may not have the same function Freeborn Hall currently has. Administration considered turning the building into a space for their offices because they believe it is not utilized enough by students as it is now.

Another use being considered for the new building is to create a space to consolidate various facets of ASUCD. Senator Ryan Wonders said he would like to see the student government sign a contract with Freeborn if it is possible.

“Right now ASUCD is scattered all over campus,” Wonders said. “I would like to see it made into a whole.”

Wonders said that one way to make that happen would be through utilizing Freeborn as a central location for the student government and its many units. However, this is not a priority for ASUCD right now.

“Our units currently on the first floor of the Memorial Union (MU) need to be given space to function appropriately,” Wonders said. “Our focus is on the renovations for the first floor of the MU. Freeborn is on the backburner.”

Another reason for this is an ASUCD acquisition of Freeborn would mean higher student fees, with possible funding coming from the administration. Wonders said that having students pay for the space is not ideal. He also said that if administration paid for the space, they would legally have power over it, which may mean they could use it over students in many situations.

Thomas is in favor of creating a building with a similar function that Freeborn has right now.

“I reject the notion that it is not utilized by students and that students do not need a space like Freeborn. The Conference Center which can also be rented out is not in the middle of campus and costs more,” Thomas said.

One reason Freeborn Hall is not utilized by many student organizations on campus is the strict rules and regulations.

“I believe that the way Freeborn is run should be restructured to make it easier for students to rent and use because it is too expensive and they are not very accommodating to students,” Thomas said.

According to a document of compiled data on events that have been held at Freeborn Hall, there were 25 events run by student organizations from 2011 to 2012, and 23 student-run events during 2012 to 2013. The uses of Freeborn right now include holding lectures, venues for concerts, charity and club events and dances, such as Dormal.

ASUCD units such as KDVS, The Aggie and The Pantry are housed in Lower Freeborn, which sits directly below Freeborn Hall, and will have to move soon after the building is shut down. Any location those units may move to is not currently known, and the move would be especially difficult for the campus radio station KDVS, which will lose its radio license if their broadcast is terminated for a prolonged amount of time.

According to KDVS General Manager Cameron Cairns, the administration has given the radio station until summer 2015 to find a new space. Although Freeborn Hall will be closed this summer, units in Lower Freeborn will still operate for a year afterward.

“Right now we’re just trying to assess how much space is needed,” Cairns said.

Current solutions include a temporary location after Lower Freeborn shuts down until a permanent location can be found, but moving KDVS would not be an easy task.

“It would be difficult to build an entirely new studio in a temporary location, only to have it taken down again,” Cairns said.

ASUCD Senators also showed concern about what will happen to the KDVS studio after Freeborn Hall and Lower Freeborn are shut down.

“We’re currently trying to figure out where KDVS could go. Their record collection, the largest on the west coast, needs a special room at the right temperature and the wiring to the tower in North Davis cannot be put in a portable,” Thomas said.

The renovations for Freeborn Hall are still in very early stages and it is uncertain what the future holds for Freeborn. Clayton Halliday, assistant vice chancellor and campus architect for Design and Construction Management, said the project has not been worked on with Design and Construction Management yet.

“We haven’t been involved directly in helping students and ASUCD to figure out what the programmatic needs are for Freeborn,” Halliday said. “We hope to be doing that sometime in the future.”

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