The University Record, September 25, 2000

New commons building to encourage sense of community

By Mary Jo Frank
Office of Communications

The schematic design for the new Palmer Drive Commons Building features large expanses of glass and an interior that will encourage a feeling of community, Robert Venturi of the architectural firm of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates explained at the Regents’ meeting last week. The Regents approved the schematic design for the building. Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services
The schematic design for the new Palmer Drive Commons Building features large expanses of glass and an interior that will encourage a feeling of community, Robert Venturi of the architectural firm of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates explained at the Regents meeting last week.

The Regents unanimously approved the design of the approximately 90,000-square-foot Palmer Drive Commons to be built on the southwest corner of the Washtenaw Avenue/Huron Street curve, next to the Power Plant and across the street from Palmer Field. The six-story building, with one story located underground and a rooftop penthouse for mechanical equipment, will include dining facilities; retail, conference and academic spaces; some office spaces for the Central Power Plant; and a Department of Public Safety satellite office. The building also will house the central chiller plant to serve the Palmer Drive Commons, Life Sciences Institute Building, Walgreen Drama Center and future construction, including the anticipated Science Instruction Center.

The Palmer Drive Commons Building is expected to cost about $32 million, to be funded from central administration sources, reported Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Venturi said the exterior of glass, with reddish-colored brownstone, sandstone and granite highlighting will create an open, inviting feel to the building. The long exterior wall along the east side of the building will parallel the Washtenaw Avenue curve.

The Palmer Drive Commons Building will provide an architectural transition between the traditional look of the Life Sciences Institute being built south of the Commons Building and more modern looking Medical Campus facilities, Kasdin explained. Also in the works is a footbridge, yet to be designed, linking the Commons and the east side of Washtenaw.