EMU’s McKenny Union goes back to school this fall as classroom facility

by Ward Mullens, Published August 12, 2010

YPSILANTI - The former hub of Eastern Michigan University's main campus, McKenny Hall, is being shined, polished and prepared for a "comeback" of sorts this fall.

"I think you are going to see it full of life," said Sean Braden, manager of planning and design for the Eastern Michigan physical plant.

    Since June, Braden has been getting McKenny Hall (or simply McKenny, if you've been at EMU longer than five years) ready for reassignment as a classroom/mixed use building.

    Built in 1930, McKenny served as the "social center" of then Michigan State Normal College. The building, which originally cost $500,000, was renovated in 1965. In 1984 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. McKenny, which is named for former EMU president Charles McKenny, was the student union until 2006, when the new student center was opened.

    McKenny's reassignment is the result the Pray-Harrold renovation currently underway. Pray Harrold is the largest classroom building on the EMU campus and classes had to be moved in order for work to begin.

    "This way we don't have a lot of the concerns we would have if we tried to have classes in part of Pray Harrold as we were renovating it," said Braden. "We won't have any construction safety concerns with students being around the work."

    Braden said that utilizing McKenny will help shorten the Pray-Harrold project.

    "We'll have about 18 classrooms when we open in the fall," Braden said. Meeting rooms on the second and third floors are being converted into classrooms, while six new classrooms are being constructed in the basement in the former site of the student organizations area (or if you are old enough, where the bowling alley once was).

    Desks and projectors from Pray-Harrold are being moved to McKenny for the classrooms and new furniture is being purchased for two student lounge areas.

    There will be a new student lounge and separate faculty area in the basement near the six new classrooms. The former food court area at McKenny will serve as a large student lounge area.

    Perhaps the most exciting addition to McKenny will be the return of a convenience shop that offers food.

    The new dining services area will be called Eagle Café @ McKenny.

    "We are very excited (about the café)," said Sarah Kersey Otto, director of career development and outreach, whose office is located in the building.

    Braden estimates that approximately 600 students will be using McKenny when it officially opens Aug. 30.

    McKenny currently houses several University offices, including the University Advising and Career Development Center; Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability, Human Resources, Veteran Services and Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action.

Ward Mullens

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