Amidst slight delays, 1Capen construction continues into the summer

Administrators say 1Diefendorf will open this summer, less certainty of 1Capen timeline


The arrival of a 30-foot-long, glass, accordion-like wall may delay 1Capen completion into early August -- nearly a month later than the committee’s original July deadline.

Dr. Scott Weber, vice president of Student Life and other members of the Heart of the Campus steering committee, said the construction process is “evolving” but closer to completion than the area’s exposed electrical units, dust and debris suggest.

“That last week of construction is kind of an amazing transformation of dirt and piles to carpet and furniture and whatnot,” Weber said. “So I think there’s a possibility of early August, that’s the time-frame we’re sort of talking about now.”

1Capen is the second phase of UB’s 2020 Heart of the Campus Initiative. The 17,000 square foot facility transforms the ground floors of Capen, Norton and Talbert Hall into a one-stop-shop for student needs. 

The 1Capen facility will include additional learning commons, areas with comfortable chairs and tables like in Knox Hall and a new seminar room. The project addresses a long-bemoaned UB problem: the sprawling, industrial campus, which can be overwhelming, especially for new students trying to tackle basic tasks. The phenomenon of running all over campus to get a parking pass and meet with an advisor is so well-known, administrators have coined it, “the Buffalo balance.”

The steering committee is hoping to change this by bringing the most heavily trafficked offices into one convenient location with 1 Capen and its to-scale version on South Campus, 1 Diefendorf. 1Diefendorf is on track to open later this summer, according to Weber. 

Lee Melvin, vice provost for enrollment and member of the steering committee, said he hopes 1Capen will change the narrative for UB as a big campus.

“I’m hoping students will say, ‘yes, it’s a big campus, but there’s a location where you can get everything answered and taken care of.’ That should improve the student experience and when students talk about us that should bring some more pride into the institution,” Melvin said.

1Capen is designed with the feel of a hotel concierge, with the sliding glass door opening to a front-office reception desk and self-help section for students. There are front counters for various offices to help students troubleshoot more superficial problems like locating their financial aid package or getting their picture taken.

In the back, rows of smaller offices will offer more specialized help for students with specific questions -- for example, breaking down detailed financial aid qualifications.

The 1Capen model allows for flexibility and will continue to evolve over time, explained Weber. Offices may move in and out as needs change, and many of the offices will retain their previous office spaces with “front-office” staff moving to 1Capen. Parking and Transportation, for example, will maintain its large presence in the Ellicott Complex.

A few offices like the Card Office and Health Insurance will be moving entirely, freeing up space in the Student Union for a “master plan” renovation to begin next year.

“As our student needs are evolving, so should the Student Union evolve, so we’re going to hire a national expert to reimagine how the student union should operate, how it should feel, those kind of things,” Weber said.

Weber said 1Capen is different from other schools’ versions of one-stop-shops because it includes offices that aren’t traditionally thought of as academic support.

“A lot of this is hoteling, so as need arises, somebody can sweep in,” Weber said. “So maybe they don’t have personnel there all the time, but maybe sub-board wants to have tickets for Fall Fest. They can do that.”

Andy Stott, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, said he hopes the project will have “conscious and unconscious benefits” on the student experience.

“I hope it makes everybody feel that UB is a place that really works well,” said Stott. “A place where the pieces fit together and things are seamless and you don’t have to spend time being frustrated with lines or have people sending you to another part of campus or walking through the sleet attempting to find the answer to your question.”

The Buffalo Room will be another unique feature of 1Capen, featuring a high-end space with seating for 120-140 people, easily adapted for special visits from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or other distinguished visitors.

The space can also be used for small faculty receptions, and is conveniently located adjacent to the space that will hold the Global Market Cafe, the next phase in the Heart of the Campus initiative.

The Global Market Cafe is estimated to open in January of 2020, and is anticipated to replace Bert’s Food Court. Weber hopes the Global Market will be built in the courtyard outside the ground floor of Talbert Hall, with an entrance from the North Promenade.

“I think all of us hope this becomes an iconic place on campus,” Weber said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go, you don’t know how things get branded by students. I mean I hope it’s positively. But in fairness to our students and the process, I’m sure there will be some hiccups.”

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at