El Centro Renovation Now On Track to Re-Open in April

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Photo by America Lopez Martin / The Bottom Line File Photo

Jack Alegre
Features Editor

UCSB’s El Centro building looks to be nearing completion in time for its projected opening date of April 14. The primary concern — structural integrity — has been alleviated, and now all that remains is to finish the interiors and some wiring, as well as some landscaping out front.

According to the 30th El Centro Renovation Project Meeting, the last obstacles to finalizing El Centro’s renovations are painting some of the lower floor rooms as well as furnishing them. For instance, the televisions on the lower room have not yet been installed as they are currently waiting for the furniture to arrive. However, the furniture is expected March 8. A previous estimate put the re-opening date in March.

Additionally, with regards to more technical snares, the card readers for the doors have not yet been installed due to a mismatch between the 24V equipment that was purchased and UCSB’s 12V standard. Additionally, the building’s network wiring is also projected to be finished by the end of the week.

As an assured sign of the progress, University Architect Ernest Knapp, who is overseeing the project, announced that the fences surrounding the building and general area will soon be coming down.

El Centro was opened in the 1970s as a safe space for people of color, particularly those in the Latinx community. (Fabiola Esqueda/The Bottom Line File Photo)

Furthermore, the building will be open and accessible during spring break, though the main lobby will remain inaccessible for the time being due to interior renovations taking place in some of the rooms near the entrance.

Concerns over El Centro’s structural integrity arose last year, after students received a notice to vacate on Jan. 9, 2017. Since the initial order, student activist organizations such as El Congreso have organized petitions and sit-ins to protest El Centro’s potential closure, citing its long history as a meeting place for Latinx and other colored students.

That history will be memorialized with an artistically rendered timeline that will wrap around the top part of the walls, as well as a time capsule. The building continues to play an important role in educating people about Latinx history today, acting as a complementary center to the Educational Opportunity Program’s Chicanx/Latinx Cultural Resource Center in the Student Resource Building.

It is no surprise then that renovating the building has become something of a passion project, and parties beyond normal construction crews have helped work on the building. Student organizations such as EOP also became involved, acting as an accessory labor force, and touched up some painted areas and sanded down cabinets.

Knapp ended the meeting by outlining the schedule for next week and announcing that the building passed all of its safety inspections; the building just needed a test of the fire alarm system. “We’re doing well, everyone,” he said.

The project’s overseers seem confident that the project will reach its conclusion on the projected April 14 deadline. The overseers already made plans that day for an open house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as a ceremony from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.