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March 2014  

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60 years (+1) and Counting: The HUB Continues to Evolve

Photo by Tina Hay

Do you have a favorite memory of the HUB? We’d love to hear it. Send in your recollections in an email to and they may be published in a future edition.

In 1951, the student All-College Cabinet approved a special fee of $7.50 per student and an additional $10 fee per student per semester thereafter, with the money allocated for a new student union building.

Ground broke in January 1953 and the doors of the Hetzel-Union Building opened in February 1955. The original student center boasted such features as a “wait for date” room, a music room with a record library, a TV room, 12 pay phone stations and a Lion’s Den snack bar.

The HUB has come a long way since then. There’s been a number of major additions throughout the years, and plenty of minor renovations, as well. So the HUB continually evolves.

The newest phase of construction will add nearly 55,000 square feet and renovate another 52,000. The construction is ongoing and scheduled to last until next year and will also include the following changes and additions:

  • The total square footage of the HUB-Robeson Center will total 305,000 square feet.
  • The largest new room will be the Flex Theatre, at approximately 2,000 square feet.
  • The new student commons area will feature more than 200 new seats.
  • A 10,000 square foot green roof located above the Penn State Bookstore will include 1,200 square feet of outdoor patio space.

Construction began last year and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in September. Since construction is slated to continue into next May, there’s still plenty to do. The winter, that at times has been unusually harsh, has caused some delays but not enough to cause concern.

Photo by Tina Hay

Around, near and underneath the usual traffic that encompasses the HUB, a separate world of construction workers, mechanical experts and foremen make sure everything stays on schedule.

There are plenty of visible signs that tell everyone a lot is taking place: an 180-foot crane that’s constantly moving, backhoes and other enormous pieces of equipment and steel beams that sit idly by, waiting to be placed.

Gilbane, Inc., of Providence, R.I., is overseeing construction and GUND Partnership of Cambridge, Mass., was in charge of the project design. The $44.6 million project is funded by a variety of channels: student facilities fees, HUB reserves, Food Services reserves and bookstore reserves.

Devon Saunders ’13 interned with Gilbane for two summers before the company hired him last year. He said tours of the construction have been popular, including among student groups.

Recently, students toured the site as part of the 2014 senior class gift, which will be the HUB Green Roof Terrace that will sit atop the newly situated bookstore. The Green Roof Terrace won after it was selected as one of three final selections from an initial field of more than 150 gift proposals.

For the HUB expansion, student input was critical from the very beginning, said Mary Edgington, senior director for union and student activities.

Photo by Tina Hay

Two informal surveys and a comprehensive survey were done from 2009–11, with further opinions sought from many focus groups that were comprised of students, faculty and staff.

“All this qualitative and quantitative data was compiled, analyzed, and used to produce the ‘program statement’ in support of the HUB expansion,” Edgington said. “The ‘program statement’ included ideas from the students, which the architects then incorporated into the design. What is in the expansion now is what students requested a few years ago, and we are very pleased with the relevancy of those decisions today.

Edgington said students will also benefit by the addition of increased meeting room space, a THON retail store and more dining options.

Even though the HUB is primarily a student union, Edgington said she also believes the new features will attract staff, faculty and guests, who can visit the refurbished bookstore and take advantage of the green roof.

Note: This is the first in a two-part History & Traditions series on the HUB, originally named the Hetzel-Union Building, after the former Penn State president. Next month, the Paul Robeson Cultural Center will be spotlighted. For each story, viewers are encouraged to send in their personal memories from both venues.

Published by Penn State Alumni Association
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