Several office bookshelves that once contained a small library were now bare and towers of boxes cluttered the small lobby in the Matador Involvement Center in preparation for a big move.
While it is business as usual at the Mercantile Exchange, the convenience store is expected to occupy a much bigger space in the new University Student Union by the end of June.
The $15.2 million USU renovation will house a Freudian sip, a flower shop, television lounge and a 70-machine computer lab. The three-story building is expected to be the hub of CSUN activities.
The sheer anticipation of the new USU building has created a buzz of its own among business owners that surround the building.
Sam’s Clothing and Accessories, a store tucked into a nook of the USU, currently has one door serving double duty as entry and exit.
Linda Watta, who owns and operates the store with Sam Watta, anticipates the opening of the new structure. She plans to open the store’s second door, which now stands locked and covered, to welcome access to the new building. Linda said she expects new business to come from the new cafeteria and computer lab that will be in the new USU.
“It’ll have a couple hundred computers,” Watta said. “They know the students need it so you won’t have to get here early and wait for a computer anymore.”
Pertrice Chambers, who has been working at CSUN for 10 years, welcomes the change the new structure promises to bring, like several other campus renovations she has witnessed.
“Even that bookstore was new once upon a time,” Chambers said.
Chambers has worked at the Mercantile Exchange, Burger King and in the Corporation building since 1996. She spends the majority of her time, however, working at Subway.
Heavy traffic in the small sandwich shop, she said, has forced the restaurant to shift to outdoor seating in Fall 06. Chambers said she expects the opening of the new USU to yield even more business.
“We’re getting a bigger staff,” Chambers said. “We believe we’ll be even busier because classes will be in the new building. There’s already classes in this performing arts building and (the students) pack in here and keep us busy enough.”
While having witnessed dramatic change throughout CSUN, Chambers believes the additions to the USU will have beneficial effects.
“The Student Union has always been here. It was always pretty quiet,” Chambers said. “This new building, and even people just waiting to find out what’s going to be in there, (are) creating a buzz and making people take notice of the Student Union again, which is good.”
Mirella Nazarian, general manager of Digital +1 Hour Photo, believes the opening of the new building will change the campus.
“This place has been like a war zone,” Nazarian said.
She said the construction has been a barrier dividing the campus, adding that the time has come to drop the fence and bring everyone together.
She believes the completion of the new buildings will open up a pathway for students, joining two sides of CSUN and allowing for better communication among the two.
Nazarian said the new USU will bring people back to the center of campus.
“People still don’t know we’re here,” she said. “(Students) aren’t used to looking for us because they aren’t here as much as they’re at the bookstore.”
Nazarian expects afternoon concerts and additional vendors would bring the business and attention she seeks.
“I’m hoping the new (USU) and the activities will bring students here enough to where they’ll notice we’re here the way they know everything that’s around the Sierra Center,” she said. “I’m counting the seconds until (the construction) is over.”