By: Henry Fisher | September 27, 2021
August saw the conclusion of the three-month-long first phase of the campus bookstore renovations. With AcaDamien’s bookstore being open for a month and re-signed for a couple of weeks, it is high time to witness its effects thus far.
“It's just such a different experience now. It's remarkable how different it is,” said Stephen Pearse, the university’s Executive Director of Auxiliary Services.
The renovated bookstore, AcaDamien’s, which was newly named through a student contest, received a major facelift that includes a larger glass storefront, updated signage, a new bookstore flag, and a redesigned floor plan.
“Everything out front, carpeting, wall surfaces, fixtures. I can’t say lighting yet, because there’s going to be phase two, which is going to address it. There’s some new lighting, but it's not all new…” according to Pearse, who oversees the bookstore contract.
Michelle “Mo” Schifley, the university’s Senior Director of Administration, addressed this point as well, saying, “It’s much more flexible, and the store can be responsive to what is happening on campus at any given time.”
Overall, the changes make “it much brighter, much more inviting, and much more of a retail presence,” according to Pearse, and make “...it really [look] like a store now,” said Schifley.
That isn’t to say it is all hammers and hard hats. Pearse expressed that, “...one of the biggest changes is the name because it used to be the campus bookstore. And now we had a contest last year. We had many, many, many submissions—over a hundred submissions, almost two hundred submissions—and through voting, AcaDamien was the chosen name.”
Natalie Cosentino was the winner of this contest, as reported by the UAlbany Auxiliary Service’s Twitter.
“I was really happy with the student engagement in the contest,” said Schifley, adding later that, “I definitely think students are ‘just stopping by’ while they are just doing something else on campus, whereas before—when it was a little harder to get in and was tight—people came when they needed something. I think that’s important.”
Pearse and Schifley reported that the first phase of the project had started in May. 17 until Aug. 16, and the second phase is currently in the works.
Schifley affirmed that “...the bulk of what is really going to impact student and visitor impressions, day-to-day, is done.”
“It has started in terms of the paperwork and planning. It has not gone out to bid yet. We are working with the construction fund, the state, because it is an infrastructure project it has to go through the construction fund,” said Pearse in regards to phase two of the project.
Though the ceiling and the lighting will be completed in phase two, “...the focus is on what’s called HVAC, which is Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling,” said Pearse.
Pearse disclosed that “...they’re gonna have to refurbish or update that piece of equipment, and when they do so, it will also have implications with the ductwork in the bookstore, which is above … the existing ceiling.”
Therefore, work on the ceiling was to be held off until the beginning of phase two, which they hope to start in Spring 2022.
The original budget for the project was slated at $2.3 million, but according to Pearse, the anticipated budget, which remains in the bidding process, will most likely be larger.
“It serves a real course materials role for the university, but there’s so much more that happens with sponsorships, and making sure that its ethical and compliant products, and making all of the regalia out of recycled bottles -- which is a big thing,” confirmed Schifley when discussing the role of AcaDamien’s.
Many students were happy with the updated bookstore’s results.
“I think it looks super nice, compared to what it used to look like. A lot less clutter, I’d say. You can find where you’re going easier,” said student Hogan Fox. “...last year you had to look around and ask for where to go and what to do. Now you can just see. There are signs everywhere, telling you where to go.”
Brianna Lacovone, another university student, agreed, saying, “I saw it a lot before its remodel. So it's just a lot nicer, more welcoming, pretty.”
Even freshmen have appreciated the updates, although they did not get to see the old bookstore. Freshman Parthiv Lodh said, “From what I’ve seen in there, they have everything you need. I’ve found use in it a lot.”
In regards to the project overall, Pearse said, “What I would say is that I am very pleased with how it came out, and the fact that it was done (basically) on time, and that our customers seem to really enjoy their experience. Much more than in the previous store.”