UC To Begin Capital Campaign

Council seeks to buy building for student social space

The Undergraduate Council voted in favor of starting a 16-month capital campaign to fund a student community center on Sunday evening.

The property at 45 Mt. Auburn St., which currently houses the Democracy Center, is being considered for the UC’s social space. The building is valued at four million dollars, according to the Foundation for Civic Leadership (FCL), the organization that owns the Democracy Center.

The FCL has already received bids for the property, according to FCL President Ian T. Simmons ’98-’00. Simmons spoke at the Council meeting on Sunday and said that the foundation wanted to sell the property to the UC because the organizations shared common goals.

“All the [current] bidders would have turned it into an exclusive space,” he said. “The best option is for us to sell the building to a group that would turn it into something exciting.”

While negotiations are ongoing, further legislation may be put forward by the UC to ask the FCL to postpone entering agreements with other institutions to give the UC time to make a decision.

“We’re basically doing something very stupid which is to consider delaying a very, very good offer... to give you a little time,” Simmons said.

The UC capital campaign has already received a $4,000 donation from an anonymous source.

Although the legislation passed on Sunday did mention the possibility of buying the 45 Mt. Auburn St. property, it did not bind the Council to the purchase.

The current language of the bill, which narrowly passed, says that “the capital raised first be applied to the creation of a Student Community Center at 45 Mt. Auburn St. through purchase, leasing, or leasing-to-own, if the terms of the deal with the current owners of 45 Mt. Auburn St. are amenable to the Undergraduate Council.”

While a deal has yet to be made, the FCL has expressed the desire to retain the top two floors of the building for their own use, according to Joshua J. Nuni ’10, a UC representative who consulted an architect.

Renovations to make the 45 Mt. Auburn St. basement usable are estimated to cost between three hundred and four hundred thousand dollars, according to a presentation given to the Council by Nuni.

“[The basement] would be very unsafe to have people using it right now,” Nuni said. “It’s usable for storage.”

The first floor also requires renovations. Currently, it is not handicap accessible and needs a new sprinkler system.

The UC legislation also resolved that the Council hire four members of the student body as full-time staffers for the campaign to raise funds. So far, at least 58 students have indicated that they would be interested in volunteering for the campaign and eight have expressed interest in applying for full-time jobs, according to Nuni.

Many opponents of the legislation at the UC General Meeting were skeptical that the Council would be able to raise the necessary funds in time, particularly considering the current economic climate.

Any social space purchase made by the UC would likely have to be funded mostly by the capital campaign. It is unlikely that the Council will finish the year with more than a few thousand dollars outside their reserve fund.

Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds said she would not support raising the student fee on the termbill that students pay to the Council to contribute to fundraising for a social space purchase. Currently the fee is $75.

“I think we would not allow them to raise that for the simple reason of buying something like the Democracy Center,” Hammonds said.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.