Union redevelopment: delayed but still on track to be completed by Freshers’ 2015

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Photo: Henry Legg

Despite delays during the first phase of the renovation, the Union redevelopment project is currently on target to meet its deadline in autumn 2015.

In December, poor weather forced completion of phase one of the £12 million redevelopment to be pushed back to January, meaning that the new shop, ‘Your Shop’, will now be opened slightly later than planned. However, director of events and services Daniel Palmer told The Saint that this will not affect the final deadline of the project.

Phase two of the redevelopment is now well underway, with the Building Site Bar offering a wider range of drinks, screens for sport, sofas and pool tables in Venue 1. In the case of larger events like the Bop, the bar will close and the event will be split between a wrist-band only Venue 1 and the alternative bar space in Venue 2. According to Mr Palmer: “It’s going to be a balancing act between keeping as many events on as possible, while at the same time having a non-ticketed bar this term.” Students can keep up to date with the opening times of both bars with the blackboard in the foyer of the Union.

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The outside of the building. Photo: Henry Legg

So far, the glazed window space in Venue 2 has been well received. Offering views onto Market Street, Mr Palmer says that this bar area is aimed at a more “chilled-out, cocktail market.” One of the main advantages of the Building Site Bar is that Venue 2, along with the Salad Bowl and Committee Room, can still be used for society events. Restricted space has been a concern for societies during the live building and it is hoped that the final redevelopment will be able to cater for all student groups within the University.

Meanwhile, construction of the new Union shop and café, ‘Rector’s’, is progressing well. Training will take place in the café over the next few weeks, and it is hoped that this part of the redevelopment will open in early March, followed shortly by the Union shop. ‘Rector’s’ will connect to ‘Your Shop’, providing students with a space to meet up and relax, whilst the latter will sell St Andrews branded clothing, stationery and confectionary. All profits from the café and shop will go towards supporting student activities. The new Blackwells bookshop has already opened in their new unit at the side of the building.

The building site bar
The Building Site Bar. Photo: Henry Legg

In June, the third phase of the redevelopment will start with the closure of the top floor of the Union. The floor will re-open in September, providing a temporary space for sabbaticals and other Union staff, but will only be available for use by societies in semester two after construction work in the middle corridor office space. By the end of phase three, it is hoped that the middle floor will have an easily accessible, open plan sabb office and special areas for STAR radio and the committee room. On the top floor, in addition to the bar space in Venue 2, there will also be dance and rehearsal rooms, a workshop, and numerous society and meeting spaces of various sizes, all with projectors.

Come 2015, Mr Palmer is confident that the new Main Bar and Venue 1 will cater for those seeking a fun night out in St Andrews. At present, the main bar is being converted into two spaces – ‘Sandy’s’, a traditional pub in the current games room, and an updated main bar and adjacent kitchen, providing food such as burgers and chips, pasta and hot dogs for late night revellers.

The area in Venue 2
The temporary bar setup in Venue 2. Photo: Henry Legg

When phase four takes place in the second semester of 2015, Venue 1 will also be turned into two venues, including a performance space with a stage and retractable seating, and an entertainments venue with dance floor, booths, and LED lighting. There will also be a retractable wall between the two areas, which is expected to be used for larger events such as Freshers’ Week.

Overall, Mr Palmer says that students can look forward to a Union which will “easily accommodate all of our groups”. The new distinct bar spaces – Sandy’s, the Venue 2 cocktail bar and the main bar – will provide more choice for the student body, while the renovated Venue 1 will improve mid-semester events. Mr Palmer explained: “A bop won’t feel empty when there are only a few hundred people, as it will be held in the smaller nightclub.”

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The new Blackwell’s shop. Photo: Henry Legg

Nightlife aside, it is hoped that the renovated Union will also make a big difference for societies through a new and more spacious headquarters. Mr Palmer said: “We’ll support our theatre, music and other performance groups with the performance space, as they currently don’t have enough options given the closure of the Byre”. Furthermore, students may see an improved entertainment line-up in St Andrews following the redevelopment of the Union, as there will be “more flexibility for bigger and better artists”.

Although present building work is limiting space for societies and making it risky to hold large events, Mr Palmer remains optimistic that the new Union will make up for these difficulties through its modern and larger facilities: “The whole building will look so much better, and whether you use the Union for a night out, for a society, or for our representative and support services, they’ll all be enhanced and improved upon with a building better suited to our needs.”

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