Regents approve new Central Campus multicultural center


The University of Michigan will build a new multicultural center near the heart of campus to serve students of many cultural identities.

The Board of Regents approved the $10 million facility Thursday. It will be built on a vacant site along South State Street behind the Betsey Barbour House and Helen Newberry Residence, two smaller residence halls that face Maynard Street.

Once built, the new facility would replace the current William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center, which sits off campus at 1443 Washtenaw Ave. This former fraternity house has been the home of the multicultural center since 1972. It was last updated with $300,000 in renovations during the summer of 2014.

The new center is a result of extensive outreach and input from students and other members of the university community. Engagement included four town hall meetings over the past nine months, eight focus group sessions, benchmarking to other college and university multicultural centers and a survey of students.

That input, along with institutional knowledge of the existing multicultural center student uses, resulted in a proposal for a 20,000-square-foot facility that will both accommodate spaces from the current center and add a multipurpose room able to accommodate 300 people for banquets or conferences, and an active-learning, classroom-style configuration for 100 students. The current multicultural center encompasses 11,000 square feet.

‚Äč”The idea for a new¬†multicultural center began with students, and students have been the driving energy in all our planning,” says Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper.

“In town hall meetings and many focus groups, students gave feedback about what the building should provide, and about the location that might work best. Taking together all these voices, we found the location on State Street to be the best fit for students’ needs,” she says.

Approval of the project included the appointment of the Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company for design. Funding will be provided by investment proceeds and gifts.



  1. Lawrence La Fountain
    on December 17, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Faculty and staff were also actively involved in this process, along with students.

  2. Kalyn Sanderfer
    on December 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    It is extremely important to mention that this was an effort brought to reality by minority STUDENTS OF COLOR specifically, and the Black Student Union. Until the BBUM (Being Black at U of M) movement, a lot of students didn’t even know what or where the center was. Plans for a new multi-cultural center was a suggestion brought before the regents by the Black Student Union 2 years ago, and they should get credit for it.

  3. Thomas Cook
    on December 21, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Only the U would consider that land “vacant”.

  4. Lili Krezel
    on January 19, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Betsey Barbour and Helen Newberry Residences used to face State Street. So if their old back doors are now their front doors, the supposedly “vacant” site must be their former front lawns. It will take creative shoehorning to cram a 20,000 square-foot building into that small space. Unless it’s going to be four storeys.

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