Renovation & Construction Showcase: University of Hartford

University of Hartford, E. Clayton Gengras Family Student Center


Submitted by: Charles Amerson, Director of Student CentersHartford

Campus type: Four-year, private
Full-time enrollment: 5,217
Project broke ground: April 2017
Project completed: October 2017
Total area: 79,200 sq. ft.
Floors: 3
Project cost: $5 million
Funding source: 100% institution
Architects: The Slam Collaborative – Glastonbury, Connecticut 


Great room/lounge: 3,095 sq. ft. 


Conference rooms: 3,934 sq. ft.
Offices: 1,334
Commuter lounge: 562 sq. ft.
Muslim prayer room: 429 sq. ft.

Marking the end of a multi-million dollar renovation project is a milestone worthy of celebration, and at the University of Hartford’s E. Clayton Gengras Family Student Center that achievement was made even more significant with another important milestone—the 50th anniversary of the original dedication of the student center. 

The Gengras Family Student Union had experienced gradual decay over the past 50 years. Infrastructure and overall aesthetics needed modernizing. 

HartfordUsing data gathered from a benchmarking survey, interviews, prioritization polls, student surveys, and consultant site visits, the project planning committee set out on a course that would incorporate flexibility, collaboration, and communication to achieve the anticipated results: A more efficient infrastructure coupled with enhanced services and improved aesthetics.

“During the building process, we learned how to better incorporate flexibility into our operation,” said Charles Amerson, director of student centers. “The building was still in operation during construction to minimize disruption to regular activities. We made last-minute room changes and setups that helped to avoid unexpected construction issues and client frustration. On some days, conference rooms were turned into temporary office spaces for our tenants. Our dining service assisted in keeping tenants happy by relocating summer dining to different locations to further minimize disruptions to normal operations."

A major improvement was the removal of an underutilized patio which made way for a new lounge and dining space that students named Hawk Lounge. This space is likely to become a showpiece during admission tours, Amerson said. And during evenings, it becomes a leisure area and study lounge that is conveniently located to the center’s self-operated snack bar. 

The new lounge then allowed for repurposing a dining area into a large event space without compromising seating needs. Renovation of a former lounge allowed for consolidation of a new Career Services Office that had originally been split into two areas of the building, in turn making a statement on the university's commitment to career readiness. Now, with the majority of student services offices on the main level, the concept of a “Student Services Main Street” was achieved. 

The main entrance is ADA-accessible with exterior siding that coincides with Hartford’s branding and school colors, giving the original brutalist architecture of the building a colorful, school spirit look. The front entry canopy was redone with a refreshed look and new lighting fixtures. A new outdoor social space called Hawk Terrace can be used for outdoor vending, outside gatherings, and leisurely seating during non-event hours.

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