By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS - University of Cincinnati students are tossing Frisbees, grabbing snacks and chatting with friends.
Students including Rachel Kellerman of White Oak (left) and Jessica Hale of Colerain Township enjoy the new MainStreet area on UC campus.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GARY LANDERS
Only now they're doing this long into the evening.
Thus, a main goal of the university's $233.8 million MainStreet project has been accomplished: To turn the 34,000-student campus into a thriving 24-hour venue for students, alumni and visitors.
The two-day MainStreet preview celebration, which kicks off today, will officially open the first phase of the six-year project. It begins with a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center, followed by the conclusion of President Nancy L. Zimpher's inauguration ceremony.
It's not the only makeover taking place at the school. On Thursday, UC's baseball team played its first game in the new, $11 million, 3,085-seat stadium. The stadium is the first completed phase of the $80 million Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village project, for which ground was broken in March 2003.
MainStreet - the student life-centered core of the university's Master Plan - is the largest capital project in UC's 185-year history. The majority of the project is funded with student fees (a Campus Life Fee of $119 per student per quarter). Renovation of Swift Hall, home to 18 classrooms/lecture halls and the honors scholars program, was funded by the state.
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All events are free and open to the public.
5-7 p.m.: Reception with a cookout in front of Tangeman University Center.
5-7 p.m.: LeRoy Ellington and the E-Funk Band plays on Bearcat Plaza, between TUC and the Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center.
5-8 p.m.: Philip M. Meyers Jr. Memorial Gallery open house in the Steger Center.
6 p.m.: Lecture by Antwone Fisher, author of Finding Fish, A Memoir, in the TUC Theater.
7 p.m.: Book signing by Antwone Fisher in the UC Bookstore.
7:30 p.m.: The movie Antwone Fisher is shown in Tangeman University Center.
8-10 p.m.: Comedian Jim Breuer brings musical comedy to the Great Hall.
9:30-11 p.m.: Stroke 9 performs on Bearcat Plaza. 9:30 p.m.: The Lord of the Rings movie marathon begins in TUC Theater with Fellowship of the Ring.
10 p.m. to midnight: Actor Steve Schirripa (Bobby Bacala Baccalieri on The Sopranos) emcees Casino Night in the TUC food court.
10 p.m. to midnight: Video dance party in the Great Hall.
11 p.m. to 1 a.m.: Pancake breakfast in the TUC food court, sponsored by UC's Collegiate Ministries.
Midnight: Campus tours explore the legends and myths of UC, sponsored by Bearcat Roar. Groups will meet in front of TUC. Tours should last for one hour.
11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.: The Rugrats Movie in TUC Theater.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Meet the Rugrats in the TUC Food Court.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Inflatable games on the TUC plaza.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Face painting and balloon animal creations in the TUC atrium.
Noon to 5 p.m.: Philip M. Meyers Jr. Memorial Gallery open house in the Steger Center.
12:30-1:30 p.m.: Storybook readings of Rugrats books in the UC Bookstore.
7 p.m. to 1 a.m.: The 65th annual Sigma Sigma Carnival, "Carnival Hangs 10" on Sigma Sigma Commons will have a surfing simulator and other games, food, music and prizes. Sigma Sigma is a UC men's group to promote college spirit.
The project is transforming a campus of parking lots and aging buildings into a gathering place packed with trees, study nooks and unique architecture.
"We're already seeing elements of what we hoped would happen," said Mitchel D. Livingston, vice president for Student Affairs and Services. "We see (student) traffic that used to disappear around 3 or 4 o'clock now here into early evening and beyond."
In 1989, UC's master plan was developed to create more green space, classrooms and research labs, as well as centralized student services.
Since then, UC has undergone a transformation on 43 percent of the surface area on the school's 200 acres. Between now and 2012, another 29 acres will undergo change, much of it devoted to open spaces like gardens and plazas.MainStreet, which runs like a thick ribbon from near the western edge of the main campus to Jefferson Residence Complex on the east, ties all of that together. It's not a street, but a corridor that has formed as the campus has been transformed.
"MainStreet is like the stitching that brings together all these pieces that were previously unattached," said Len Thomas, project manager of landscape, design and construction in UC's Architect's Office.
Two highlights are Tangeman University Center and the Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center, both of which have become popular gathering spots for students this spring.
The $50.8 million renovation and expansion of Tangeman began in early 2001. The reopened building maintains the Greek Revival fa┴ade. The former structure, however, was peeled away to open up a 90-foot atrium with a skylight, topped with the Tangeman's old clock tower.
Amenities include a 200-seat theater, a 600-seat food court, meeting rooms, a convenience store and 24-hour banking. Nearby is the new, $26.2 million Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center, home to the Office of Judicial Affairs, Office of Student Life/Dean of Students and Student Government and other student-related offices. The looming building also holds an art gallery, where the work of students and faculty from the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning is presented; a business center and computer lab. Here students can also find Starbucks and Subway.
Between the two is the newly opened Bearcat Plaza, a casual setting with cafe tables and trees. Other green space includes the Mews, a secluded spot between Swift Hall the Steger Life Center.
"We wanted the campus to be very committed to nature," Livingston said. "Before, if you flew over it, it looked like a factory."
MainStreet also includes:
University Pavilion, which opened in fall 2002 and centralizes student administrative services.
Student Recreation Center, opening in phases between August 2005 and winter 2006. It will be the largest of the MainStreet facilities, with apartment-style student residences and a fitness center.
Sigma Sigma Commons, a six-acre open space that opened in 1998 and is a wireless Internet zone.
Third-year communication major Andrew Burke of Clifton said the project has added a student-oriented element that was lacking.
"It gives students a reason to stick around after the classes are over," he said. "Before, you wouldn't want to eat the university food and be here."
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