New Mexico Highlands University
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Highlands University Breaks Ground for New Student Center
New Mexico Highlands University broke ground July 26 for a new 70,000-square-foot student center.
Highlands University President Jim Fries said the student center will be a striking gateway to the campus and will enhance the quality of campus life for the university’s growing student body while also offering various services to the community.
The construction cycle for the state-of-the art building at 8th Street and National Avenue is expected to be approximately 16 months, with the goal of opening its doors for spring semester 2012.
“This student union has been a vision in the minds of so many people at the university and the regents over the years,” Fries said. “It’s very exciting to see it becoming a reality.”
Highlands Student Body President Randall Brown said, “I have no doubt that this new student center will be exciting for the students, and it will bring the community and university together.”
Strengthening the ties between the university and the community was a common theme at the groundbreaking ceremony, which also included local elected officials , university regents and other community leaders.
“Highlands and the City of Las Vegas are really one community now,” said Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz, Jr. “President Fries and I have worked together, and we both know that where Highlands goes, the city goes and vice versa.”
The student center will include a dining facility for the residence halls, a flexible theater space that can also be used for lectures and dances, offices, computer lab, conference space, campus bookstore, campus post office, café, copy center, game room, and an executive boardroom for campus governance groups.
Studio Southwest Architects and Diamond+Schmitt Architects designed the new student center in a joint venture. The general contractor for the project is Makwa Builders of Albuquerque.
The contemporary three-story design uses stone as the building base, with full-height glazed glass panels providing natural light for the main public spaces. A metal panel system along the exterior perimeter of the building completes the building skin.
The building design is organized around a central atrium at the main public entrance at National Avenue from the south. The north entrance from Columbia Street features an outdoor courtyard and a large interior gathering space. The Columbia entrance connects students with the residence halls, and a skywalk connects the building to the university’s Donnelly Library.
Cutting-edge green features are incorporated throughout the building design, including using geothermal technology to heat and cool the building. The building is designed to achieve at least LEED Silver certification, an international high-level measure of environmental sustainability.
The overall projected cost for the student center is $20.5 million, with $18 million budgeted for construction. The project will be financed by a combination of $6.5 million in state funds and $14 million in university system revenue bonds.
The bonds will be paid through business enterprise revenue from the student center and student fees, most of which are already in place.
“We very much appreciate the support of the of the New Mexico Finance Authority and its CEO Bill Sisneros,” Fries said.
After the groundbreaking for the student center, the university held a ribbon cutting for a major remodel of the Felix Martinez building, which is now a one-stop shop for student services.
“It’s always in our mission to provide excellent services to our students and this newly remodeled building allows us to do that,” said Judy Cordova-Romero, vice president for student affairs. “Now our students can come to one place to get the help and assistance they need.”
The Felix Martinez building at 800 University Ave. now houses the offices for student affairs, admissions, registrar, financial aid, academic support, student support services, career services, mental health services, and recruitment.
“Franken Construction has done a great job with this Felix Martinez project, and I want to thank them and our architects from Studio Southwest,” Fries said.
The Felix Martinez building was constructed in 1983 and this is its first remodeling. The project cost was $3.5 million and was funded through general obligation bonds.