University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union Redevelopment
Madison, Wis.
Best Project

Owner: UW Dept. of Administration/Division of Facilities Development and Management
General Contractor/Construction Manager: Miron Construction Co.
Lead Design Firm: Uihlein/Wilson-Ramlow/Stein Architects
Architect: Moody Nolan
Civil Engineer: SmithGroupJJR
Structural Engineer: GRAEF

This two-year $47.8-million renovation project restored and enhanced one of the most beloved areas on the University of Wisconsin campus. 

The Union’s North Terrace was demolished to allow for a new underground stormwater routing system and improved accessibility through the addition of tiered walking paths and seating leading to the Lakeshore Path. A new performance stage and concession stand make the area ideal for campus events.

A facet of the university’s century-old master plan was achieved by the complete transformation of an adjacent 2.2-acre open space corridor into Alumni Park. Connecting several popular campus gathering spaces, the landscaped park has a 12-ft-dia granite water fountain, granite and clay paver radial walks, a 15-ft concrete structure that cantilevers over a gathering lawn, an outdoor classroom with tiered granite seating blocks and weathering steel planter walls custom-fabricated into curved, sloping shapes. Several panels are engraved with inspirational quotes from alumni and fitted with brackets for backlighting by LED strips. 

Matching the project’s beauty was an innovative solution for integrating the Union’s new loading dock within a constrained area.

“We needed a solution that met both the Union’s needs, yet wouldn’t detract from Alumni Park’s ambience,” explains David LaBarge, project manager for Miron Construction. “The solution was to build the loading dock underground, beneath the park.”

Situated 12 ft beneath the water table, the dock was built with a perimeter concrete secant wall to provide a permanent water barrier. A steel carousel enables delivery vehicles with trailers up to 52 ft long to easily access and leave the facility without making complex maneuvers or disrupting the above-ground environment.

Alumni Park’s scheduled grand opening was almost spoiled when the fountain didn’t perform as expected. Using 3D scanning, Miron identified the source of the problem and expedited corrective measures in time for the fountain to be reinstalled in time for the park to officially take its place among the university’s many storied landmarks. 

“It’s a setting that truly sets the campus apart and is sure to make an impression on alumni as well as prospective students,” LaBarge says. “It’s a real showstopper.”