Plans to expand Kilcawley Center under deliberation

Amy Macyko discusses possible renovation plans for the Kilcawley Student Union.

By Jessica Stamp

A meeting was held by WTW Architects, a planning and interior design firm, on Jan. 24 to get input and feedback from students, faculty and staff involving the possible renovation or move of Kilcawley Student Union.

Amy Macyko, associate principal at WTW Architects in Pittsburgh, and Joy Polkabla Byers, associate vice president of Student Experience, started collaborating on this project in August 2021. They met with focus groups like student-leader organizations, faculty and staff who work in Kilcawley to gain insight on what decision would be best for YSU. 

“What we learned through that process is that the union needs to be designed for the campus — it needs to be representative of the specific needs and the culture and the ideas from campus,” Macyko said. 

Renovation of Kilcawley would take about two years, and construction of a new building would take approximately 4-5. 

If a renovation were to happen, there are two options for the layout of the building. 

The first option would be:

  • Connects Kilcawley Center more with the fountain 
  • Switch the food and dining area to the Chestnut Room and have the Chestnut room be moved to where the Den is currently located 
  • Clearer circulation in the building so it is easier to navigate
  • Chick-fil-A becomes a covered outdoor patio/lounge area
  • New black box theater with retractable seating and a food area connecting to the Cove
  • Late night zone that provides service to students in the late hours without needing a full staff

The second option would be:

  • Chestnut room expands into a bigger room and gets upgraded technology like AV technology and lighting
  • Chick-fil-A gets a larger lounge that wraps around the building, giving students a better view of the fountain
  • Becomes more open and transparent for students walking in the building

Kilcawley Center already has deferred maintenance and would need new, updated HVAC and plumbing systems, and there are some issues with the service access to the loading deck and pedestrians walking. 

Byers said one of the important things about the renovation is creating a building that gives students a home-away-from-home type of feeling. 

“It’s the place where you can relax, be yourself and hang out,” Byers said. “Bringing us to the point where our students are meeting their needs is really important as well as the rest of campus and so part of this study is looking at what is needed and how do we become more efficient.” 

The parking deck on Fifth Avenue will be demolished in approximately two years. There are no current plans on what will go there in its place, but if Kilcawley does get another building, that spot is going to be its location.

Macyko said the new building is a better opportunity for easier access to the community, design space and a roof terrace, as well as bringing it closer to the Barnes & Noble bookstore. Some downsides of the new building is that it’s closer to an intersection, not connected to the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center and further from northern residence halls and buildings.

Macyko said WTW Architects is still determining and working through the cost of the project.

“What we’ll do is we’ll look at what new construction will probably cost per square foot and what renovation will probably cost per square foot and then calculate the square footage of the selected option,” Macyko said. “But we’re not quite at the point of putting numbers together yet.”

Many students at the Kilcawley Student Union meeting voiced their opinion about parking. Some pointed out that with a new building replacing the Fifth Avenue parking deck, it will limit parking space for commuter students. 

Macyko said the renovation of the parking deck is separate from the Kilcawley project.  

Ashley Cook is a staff member at Kilcawley Center and said she doesn’t want to see a new building location. She said its location at the center of campus is convenient and thinks renovation is the better option.

“I definitely am for staying in this location and making something work here. I don’t really like moving it, but we’ll just see what everyone else thinks,” Cook said. 

The project is not yet finalized, and Macyko and Byers are working on a report for the board of trustees approval in April.