Furnishing for Students

The Tate Student Center expansion is a 100,000-sq.-ft. addition to the Dean William Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens. The original facility, named for Dean Tate, UGA Dean from 1936 to 1971, was built in 1983. The expansion includes enhanced parking facilities that provide 508 parking spaces for campus; meeting and conference space for student organizations; three restaurants — developed by UGA Food Services —  on the third level that offer multiple dining options; and the new 12,000-sq.-ft. Grand Hall, a ballroom with capacity for more than 1,600 guests, that can be partitioned into seven smaller meeting/function rooms and accommodate large-scale student activities including concerts, lectures, and meetings. Adjacent to the Grand Hall are several preparation rooms, including a kitchen for catering, and green and dressing rooms. Located on the fourth floor, the “Taste of Home Café” replaces the original Faculty Dining Hall, features favorite recipes from the UGA Food Services’ annual “Taste of Home” event, and can be reserved for after-hours receptions.

The Tate Student Center Expansion enhances the support and development of students, faculty, and staff across The University of Georgia.

Key stakeholders in the expansion, the UGA student population was instrumental in completing the second phase of the student center, which was funded by a $25 per-semester student fee, approved by the student body in the spring of 2005, culminating in the $60M project completion after a vision that was 25 years in the making. The expanded and renovated facility officially opened June 1, 2009, to host orientation for incoming freshmen, with a formal dedication August 20, 2009.

During the development of the project Dr. Willie Banks, Jr., director of the Tate Center and of UGA’s Campus Life Department, stated, “We really want this to be the living room of campus.” Furnishing and equipping that living room was an integral part of the project. 

Focusing on FF&E
During the two-year construction of the expansion, the Department of Campus Life and the Design Team of the Office of University Architects programmed the specification, selection, procurement, delivery, and installation of approximately $1.5M of moveable furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E), excluding audio/visual, artwork, signage, etc.

The University project management team agreed to Cooper Carry’s architectural proposal of simple, clean lines, attention to detail, and a color palette of sophisticated neutral grays, blacks, charcoals, taupes, and white. The red school color was purposely avoided, with hopes the neutral color palette would present a more timeless aesthetic, in anticipation of the facility lasting a long time. This approach was also considered during the review of FF&E proposals.

Furnishings were evaluated through the course of the two-year construction of the expansion with the obvious goal of blending the existing facilities architectural finishes with the new.

The third floor of the expansion connects to the existing Tate Student Center and houses a 21-ft.-wide viewing screen for patrons to watch UGA sporting events, including football on game days. The student population was instrumental in selecting all of the moveable furnishings for both phases of the facility project.

Realizing the furnishings evaluation process would be lengthy, the Office of University Architects, director of Interior Design, solicited proposals from the network of vendors and sales representatives that have had a presence on the University campus and were familiar with State of Georgia purchasing guidelines, procedures, and available product that would be an ideal fit for a 24/7 use/installation. 

Some of the decisions that went into the FF&E selections included:
  • Furnishings were evaluated in three phases over the course of two years. The expansion and renovation provided numerous lounge areas and an opportunity to specify upholstered soft seating that included singles, doubles, and ottomans, totaling approximately 450 seats. 
  • The assistant director of Interior Design reviewed vendors’ soft seating proposals, and final selections presented to Campus Life for approval. The 28 lounge chair samples were delivered to the Tate Student Center and students were invited to complete a survey once the chairs had been evaluated for comfort, function, and aesthetic. The top four designs were then plugged into the space plan, with coordinating fabric selections that would tie in with the existing expansion.
  • The second round of requested proposals were for dining furnishings that would support the four restaurants in the expansion as well as the original Bulldog Café. A total of 13 tables and 28 chair/café/bar-height chairs were submitted for evaluation by the student population. Only one style of dining and bar-height table and chair design was selected for the entire facility, with a total quantity of 222 chairs and 77 tables delivered and installed.
  • The third review of furnishings involved the 1,400 required stack chairs for the Grand Hall, on the fifth floor of the expansion. The criteria shared with the vendors included the following: lightweight, stackable, adequate mobility on carts for transporting to storage, sustainable specifications, integral ganging device that could withstand student/facilities/staff assembling and dis-assembling, minimal labor to accomplish these tasks and, most importantly, a history of the chair being delivered and installed for use in large venues.
The renovation and expansion of UGA’s Tate Student Center, including new furnishings, lighting, and carpet, as well as a new facade on the Tate Theater, refreshed and renewed the building that generations of students have loved for the past quarter century. 

Brenda T. Elrod, BSHE, MHE, MBA, is assistant director, Interiors, for the Office of University Architects at the University of Georgia. She can be contacted at belrod@uga.edu.

About the Author

Brenda T. Elrod, BSHE, MHE, MBA, is assistant director, Interiors, for the Office of University Architects at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at belrod@uga.edu or 706/542-7356.

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