Bookstore searches for new campus location
The move could create a deficit for the MU, resulting in increased student fees
Kayla Harr, Daily Barometer, Issue date: 1/13/11 Section: News
The Oregon State University Bookstore is currently in negotiation with the university to leave its location in the Memorial Union before its lease ends in June 2014. In response to plans for the removal of the MU parking lot and the construction of the Student Experience Center, representatives from both the Bookstore and the MU have concluded that the MU East Wing will no longer be an advantageous location for the Bookstore.
According to MU Director Michael Henthorne, the university has planned for several years to remove parking lots in the center of the campus, making the inner campus more dense and pedestrian-based.
“As that happens, there are certain activities that are in the core that need to move to the perimeter because they need to be adjacent to parking, and the Bookstore is that kind of entity,” Henthorne said.
In effort to keep the Bookstore in a central location, Henthorne said plans were proposed to relocate it to a smaller space within the SEC and create underground parking beneath the building to allow drivers access to the Bookstore. This solution, however, proved unviable as the university would not allow parking in the area and OSU Bookstore CEO Steve Eckrich felt that moving to a smaller space was not a favorable option.
“When the MU came to us and said we had a choice, we could find a smaller location or we could find an alternative site, we chose to find an alternative site so we could effectively meet the needs of our student body,” Eckrich said.
The Bookstore is negotiating with the university to build a new store on the bottom level of the parking garage on Southwest 26th Street. According to Eckrich, this is the best available location because it would allow space for a larger store and is adjacent to customer parking.
“The agreement to move over to the parking garage has not been finalized yet, but we’re working very productively on that,” Eckrich said. “We would hope that we could make the relocation as soon as possible, but I’m not sure at this point whether that’s going to be before (SEC) construction begins.”
The desire for the Bookstore to relocate as soon as possible is being driven both by an effort on Eckrich’s part to remain in the MU for as little time as possible after the parking lot has closed, as well as by the university’s building schedule.
Henthorne said construction in the parking lot would ideally begin in summer 2012, several months earlier than originally projected. The timeline was bumped up to accommodate plans to build a new classroom building in place of Snell Hall by 2016, in order to meet the growing enrollment.
“To get that new classroom building in by 2016, we have to have the Snell site empty and ready to take down in 2013,” Henthorne said. “You can immediately see that it conflicts with the Bookstore’s lease until 2014. In order to have a home ready for Snell programs to move into, what date does the Bookstore need to be emptied out in order to get all this done? It’s something earlier than 2013, but we don’t yet know when. So that’s how the schedule is being driven right now; the need for academic classrooms.”
If the Bookstore does secure the parking garage location, Eckrich said the new store will be about 25 percent larger than the current Bookstore. Its proximity to parking, as well as Reser Stadium will allow off-campus customers to continue to access the store, which Eckrich said is beneficial for students because merchandise sales fund the Bookstore’s student textbook discount.
“I think that for students having a larger store that’s more efficiently designed is going to relieve a lot of the congestion that we have because of growing enrollment and the expansion of our textbook renting program,” Eckrich said. “I think it’s going to be a nice experience for students as compared to the layout of the current store … I think the accessibility will help us to generate more revenue and since that revenue does benefit students directly through the discount, that’s a very positive aspect to the relocation.”
Henthorne said the Bookstore, which has been located in the MU since 1960, provides about $800,000 to the MU annually through an agreement based on a percentage of the store’s sales. While the details of the agreement being negotiated for the Bookstore’s new location have yet to be decided, Eckrich said money spent at the Bookstore will continue to remain on campus.
“In our agreement with the university we will also be funding the university, it just won’t be directly with the MU,” Eckrich said. “We will still have our 10 percent student textbook discount. That’s the agreement that we’re currently working on, the percent to university. Also in the agreement we’re working on, we’re investigating the Bookstore actually building the facility, so that would be an investment for the Bookstore over time in the campus.”
While the Bookstore will continue to support the campus and offer the same student services, the MU will suffer a substantial revenue loss with the Bookstore’s departure.
“We forecasted it to the student fees committee almost two years ago that loss of a major revenue tenant would cause increase in student fees, but that we would try to mitigate that with as much additional revenue as possible,” Henthorne said.
Current plans to generate revenue include turning the Bookstore space into a second ballroom and opening a restaurant in the SEC that Henthorne said is intended to be a zero-waste business.
According to MU President Craig Bidiman, the new ballroom will be rentable space that will benefit the MU.
“We still need the revenue because obviously our building needs to function,” Bidiman said. “Our ballroom right now books generally a year in advance. You can bet that people are going to want to use this (new ballroom) because it’s actually going to be larger.”
According to Robyn Jones, MU assistant director and retail food service director, the construction period will be an additional struggle for the MU. Jones said sales have declined in the past during periods of construction. Depending on when the Bookstore relocates, the MU may be facing a period of time when the Bookstore has vacated, the parking lot is gone, and the SEC and MU renovations are not complete.
“Construction is a disruption, there’s no question about it,” Henthorne said. “We’ve been through the complete restoration of the exterior of this building, we’ve been through a year without the Commons when we renovated that, so it’s not unexpected nor is it a new experience for us. You just plan for it; you communicate it to the world and let people know.”
Both Eckrich and Henthorne expressed confidence that the results of the relocation and construction projects will be worth any difficulties encountered along the way. Henthorne emphasized the collaborations the SEC will facilitate between student organizations, while Eckrich said the decisions made have allowed both Bookstore and MU officials to focus on the different aspects of student life that are their top priorities.
“This campus needs a first-class bookstore that’s capable of handling all of the needs of the students,” Eckrich said. “I think, given all the variables that we had to deal with, I think this is probably the best outcome. We’ve really enjoyed being in the MU because it’s such a central location for students but I think, given the available alternatives, I think relocation was the best alternative available.”
Kayla Harr, staff writer