Reitz Union renovation on schedule; groundbreaking ceremony Saturday


The demolition of the Reitz Union colonnade continues on the University of Florida campus, in Gainesville on Tuesday. The Reitz Union is the building at right and Constance Theater is at left.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 5:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.

Students walking on the University of Florida's North Lawn over the past week have been greeted by what looks like a disaster zone where the Reitz Union Colonnade once stood.

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The demolition of the Reitz Union colonnade continues on the University of Florida campus, in Gainesville on Tuesday. The Reitz Union is the building at right and Constance Theater is at left.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

Demolition of the Colonnade began on Sept. 5, marking the first major step in the two-year-long, $75 million Reitz Union renovation project, which will include a new entrance and a 100,000-square-foot addition to the 46-year-old student union.

"We're all very excited about this project; it's going to be a great building once it's finished," said Eddie Daniels, executive director of the Reitz Union.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday on the North Lawn. The ceremony, which is open to the public, will feature several speakers, including UF President Bernie Machen, board of trustees Chairman C. David Brown III and state Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, a 1997 UF graduate.

"We are several weeks in, but we didn't want to hold the ceremony during the summer, when most students are away," Daniels said.

Although the project, and the resulting student traffic detours, began in mid-June, most work up until now has been devoted to pre-construction activities, including the abatement of asbestos from the Colonnade before it could be demolished.

"Anything built prior to the 1980s is going to contain asbestos, so we suspected that we were going to run into some," Daniels said.

Daniels expects the demolition process to run until Oct. 2, with construction to start in mid-November.

Along with the issue of asbestos, some problems arose involving fitting the new foundation between the two existing buildings — the union to the west and the Constans Theatre to the east.

"They've been typical challenges that come with a renovation-expansion project of this nature, but we have not run into anything that we have not overcome," he said.

Although Daniels acknowledged the construction has created inconveniences for students, he said there shouldn't be any new detours or blockages.

"There's obviously going to be some sacrifices and inconveniences for the next couple of years, but the end product is going to make it all worth it," he said.

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