URI begins construction of new Welcome Center

To provide comprehensive visitor experience

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Rendering of new welcome center
This is a rendering of the exterior of the new Welcome Center, which will open for the fall 2018 semester. Rendering courtesy DBVW Architects of Providence .

KINGSTON, R.I. October 16, 2016 — The concrete structure that served as the University of Rhode Island’s Visitor’s Center since 1978 has been razed to make way for a new, $7.98 million, 11,000-square-foot Welcome Center.

The new center will be nearly 12 times the size of the previous facility. The project will also include improvements to parking lot 1 off Briar Lane. URI is financing the project using University funds, not including those from tuition and fees.

“This facility will help welcome the 50,000-plus visitors who come to the Kingston Campus each year,” said Dean Libutti, vice provost for enrollment management. “This building will have outstanding physical features to welcome our guests and will tell the URI story of our past, present and future.”

Rendering of welcome center lobby
This rendering shows the interior of the new Welcome Center. DBVW Architects of Providence

“It will help all those who visit (prospective students and family members, employers, alumni, business and community leaders) begin to fully experience URI as soon as they step on campus,” Libutti said.

It is being built on the same site as the former Visitors Center at Upper College Road and Briar Lane, at the main entrance just beyond the granite gates, and adjacent to the World War I Oak Tree Memorial.

The building’s design reflects the historic Upper College Road district and URI’s spirit of innovation. It complements the two-and-a-half year-old Gender and Sexuality Center, which is located nearby on Upper College Road.

“When you come to the Welcome Center, you are going to know you are at URI,” said Erin Earle, assistant director of Admission for the campus visitor experience. “I am most excited about our history wall, which will depict important milestones at URI. We will be true to the University’s brand and also highlight our outstanding academic programs.”

The one-story structure will feature peaked roofs, wooden clapboards, stained cedar siding and large windows. Walkways will visually and physically connect the building to the heart of the campus. The University will seek LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver Certification for the project. A program of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Certification is a globally recognized symbol of excellence in sustainable construction.

Original 1978 Welcome Center
A photo of the former Visitors Center, which was built in 1978 and was recently razed for construction of the new Welcome Center. URI photo by Nora Lewis.

“The New Welcome Center makes the entire process easy since parking will be provided near the center, tours will begin there, and admission staff will be on hand as well,” Earle said. “Parents and prospective students will be able to mingle with each other, and our 110 tour guides will now have a home where they can work more closely with each other, Admission staff and our visitors.”

Inside, the center will feature an open reception area and two presentation areas for information sessions, three offices, one large conference room, restrooms and flexible, float offices for staff to use during the busy season.

Four digital screens, two with interactive features, will provide visitors with event, academic and broad information about the University. “And for the first time, the Welcome Center will be able to offer visitors refreshments,” Earle said.

While prospective students and their parents will be central to the mission of the Welcome Center, Earle emphasized that the University will now have great space to welcome all who come to campus- including visiting lecturers and faculty, artists and business leaders working with University programs.

Campus groups will be able to book the center for a variety of functions, including lectures and meetings. “We will also be able to accommodate events that include dining,” Earle said. “The center gives us more room to celebrate who we are as a University. We did well with what we had, but we did not have the kind of space that would encourage people to really immerse themselves in the University of Rhode Island experience.”

Twenty percent of the space has cathedral ceilings. Floors will have carpeting, tile and hardwood. The new center will include five women’s and five men’s rooms and one gender inclusive bathroom.

The center is slated to be completed in time for the fall 2018 semester.

DBVW Architects of Providence worked with URI to design a structure to enhance the main entrance to the campus. E.W. Burman, Inc. of Warwick is the contractor.

“I am excited about this project, which will result in a more accessible, visible home for visitors,” said Schane M. Tallardy, construction projects manager for URI. “This is a great location, and everyone on campus is going to be able to see the progress and get excited. When potential students and their families come to visit, they will get a wonderful introduction to the wide range of opportunities at URI.”