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Officials are mulling ideas for the recently purchased site in the heart of campus. The recently acquired Christian Association building will likely serve primarily academic or student group needs rather than retail or Greek organizations, University officials have said. The University bought the 27,000-square-foot property -- which officials have long desired for its prime location in the heart of campus -- from the Christian Association earlier this month for an undisclosed price. "There are a lot of academic and student-related groups that would certainly have an interest in space provided by a building like the CA," Provost Robert Barchi said, noting that a final decision will not be made until next semester. "My guess is that retail won't form a major component." Barchi said officials plan to carefully consider potential uses for the building -- which was once the proposed site of an interfaith Unity Center -- and use information gathered by the six University committees that are currently creating a master campus development plan. Because of its central location, officials say they have reason to believe the decision may change the overall atmosphere of Locust Walk and are considering it with extra attention. "This is a very important decision for the University," Barchi said. "I don't think we should take these kinds of pivotal decisions lightly." Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Professor Laurie Olin -- whose architecture firm, Olin Partnership Ltd., was hired by the University to aid in the campus planning process -- stressed the need to consult the University community before making a decision. "I am very interested in what other people think at this point," Olin said, adding that "part of the planning process that we're engaged in is consultative." Olin said that whatever use the University assigns to the property, it should not be "too introverted," but instead should create action in the center of campus. "It really should be part of the breathing in and out of the daily life of a lot of people at the University," Olin said. "It would be too bad if it ended up [being] offices." Olin added that it may be "a good idea to retain some sort of food and beverage" service in the building since its central location makes it "a fabulous place for social meeting." The building currently houses two restaurants, the Palladium and the Gold Standard. Neither of their leases run out for at least two years. The building is also unlikely to serve the Greek community. While a spot on Locust Walk is in high demand for Penn's fraternities and sororities, the space is far too big to accommodate a single fraternity or sorority house, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Director Scott Reikofski said. "I don't know that we're really interested in it," Reikofski said. "It's much bigger than we could ever really use." But before the building can be occupied, the University must first assess its structural deficiencies and renovate the building as needed. Renovations will follow in two phases. The first, scheduled to begin in the fall of 2000, will address safety issues, while the second phase, set to begin the following semester, will tailor the building to suit the needs of future occupants.

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