2019 Renovation & Construction Showcase: Frank R. Burge Union, University of Kansas


Frank R. Burge Union
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 

New Building 

Submitted by: Lisa Kring, Director of Building Services
Campus type: Four-year, public
Full-time enrollment: 29,000
Project broke ground: May 2016
Project completed: March 2018
Total area: 33,500
Floors: 3
Project cost: $14 million
Funding source: Student fees
Architects: Perkins + Will – Atlanta 

New Facilities

Convenience store and coffee concept: 900 sq. ft.
Production kitchen: 5,000 sq. ft.
Sexual Assault Prevention & Education Center: 1,000 sq. ft.
Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity: 1,000 sq. ft.
Legal services for students: 1,500 sq. ft.
The Forum (flexible meeting space): 10,400 sq. ft.
Discovery Room (conference room): 400 sq. ft.
Quiet zone: 800 sq. ft.
Reflection rooms: 250 sq. ft.
Ablution/Wudu/gender inclusive restrooms: 200 sq. ft. 

“Determined to not meet the programmatic needs of the university.” That’s what two University of Kansas master plans had to say about the 33-year-old Burge Union in 2014 as planning began to advance on the university’s massive $350 million Central District project. Geared toward creating a new education and research hub anchored by a new integrated science building and including housing, parking, and a utility plant, the Central District plan may have at first seemed like the end for the Burge. 

Frank R. Burge Union, University of Kansas. Photo courtesy of University of KansasAs the Central District project developed, it became evident that the Burge site would have to be modified for the sake of the development, so student governance and Kansas Memorial Union’s corporate board began vetting possibilities. When student leadership saw a need for a student union to remain in the same section of campus, the Memorial Union Corporation, made up of 24 University of Kansas representatives, including 12 students, initiated new union discussions with the Central District planning team. At the same time, student leadership allocated the needed funding, $14 million redirected from a student fee collection, along with a $4.90 annual student fee for 30 years. 

The new Burge Union may be a bit smaller, down from 50,000 square feet to 33,500 square feet, but it does have over 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and provides a wide range of services and modern facilities—a lactation room, automatic opening interior doors, ablution services, a legal services office, and a quiet zone. 

Frank R. Burge Union, University of Kansas. Photo courtesy of University of Kansas“It has bolstered and aligned critical services in this part of campus while serving the KU community’s needs for convenience items, coffee, and the largest meeting room on campus,” said Director of Building and Event Services Lisa Kring. “We’re on pace to host 1,200 meetings in our first full year of operation.” 

One thing unique about the Burge construction was its role as part of the larger Central District project. That project was the first public-private partnership development for the university, as it partnered with the development and asset management company Edgemoor. 

“The learning curve for all was significant,” Kring said. “While our architect directed the planning process for the union, representation during construction was less than one would experience in the absence of a developer. However, the partnership team was solution-driven, making accommodations for things that arose over the course of construction a reality.” 
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