With the beginning of a new semester brings new courses and this time, new construction.

Dec. 18, 2017 marked the start of construction on Smith Plaza on the University of New Mexico’s Main Campus.

Smith Plaza sits between Zimmerman Library and the Student Union Building — the plaza experiences heavy foot traffic during the school week, which has been rerouted in light of the construction.

The construction plans include adding more trees, sitting areas with tables and replacing the steep stairs from Union Square — the area north of the SUB and west of Mesa Vista Hall — to the plaza with a pathway, said Kim Kloeppel, the chief operations officer for student affairs.

The “Lobo Landing” and four plateau areas will give students more space to gather, and the “spaghetti ramp” on Union square, along with ramps on Smith Plaza, will also be upgraded to improve safety and accessibility, Kloeppel said.

An addition of a donor wall will give people and businesses the opportunity to have their name engraved on a wall on one side of the plaza, she said.

Student Affairs describes the new additions as an outdoor “great room” in order to reaffirm UNM as a “Destination University.”

The plaza was originally constructed in 1972 with minimal repairs and no access for emergency response — access will be featured in the new design. Safety concerns about skateboarders, “alternative transportation” and pedestrians arose, which was a motivating factor for the renovation of the plaza and was greatly considered in the new design, Kloeppel said.

“Since it is in the ‘heart’ of campus, the objective is to create a safe, accessible, comfortable, connected community and environment for campus users to feel engaged and connected,” she said.

The design was a result of a needs assessment done by the University so they could decide what new additions should be considered while keeping in mind the concerns of safety, and research was done to compare what other universities have in their plazas similar to Smith Plaza, Kloeppel said

MRWM Landscape Architects, McClain + Yu Architecture and Design and Surface Design, Inc. collaborated for four different design options, which were presented to students, staff and faculty for feedback, she said.

“The ‘plateau design’ was chosen because it reflected the overall needs and southwest design that was the best fit for this project,” she said.

This “great room” does come at a cost. The projected cost is a total of $3 million — $2 million from the 2016 institutional bonds and $1 million from the 2017 institutional bond, said Rachel Stone, the communications and outreach specialist for the University.

Institutional bonds allow the University to make “investments in large capital projects” by participating in debt commitments, which allow the University to make steps toward achieving the goal of becoming a “Destination University,” according to the UNM Bonds site.

Kloeppel said students can expect the new renovations to “accommodate the diverse University community” by having a space that can house small and large gatherings to encourage engagement and social and academic activities.

The construction is projected to have “substantial completion” by Aug. 10, 2018, Stone said.

To celebrate the renovations, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 18 at 9 a.m. at Smith Plaza.

Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.