Building a better university
As enrollment grows, so does the demand for new and improved facilities
by Sherry Wodraska Neaves
Students from bygone eras must reorient themselves when they return to campus these days. So much has changed. And 20 years from now, today's students will likely experience the same feelings. Change seems to be the only constant as the University grows.
This summer, UTA opened two apartment complexes. The fall semester brought a new classroom and office building. Construction is set to begin this fall on a continuing education facility. Physical Plant officials expect to break ground on a fine arts workshop and classroom building in February, and more work is coming.
"When the original master plan was approved in 2000, it was not something that we planned to put on the shelf. We'll be updating it and making changes every few years."
-Associate Vice President John Hall
In late 1999, administrators unveiled a campus master plan. They emphasized then that it would evolve, and it has. Layouts have been revised, schedules altered and projects bumped ahead or pushed back to accommodate the changing environment.
"A master plan is a living document," University President Robert E. Witt said. "It adapts as the University adapts."
The '99 plan called for significant additions to campus housing, a situation that has become more acute as enrollment has surged. That need accelerated construction on several projects, including the just-opened Timber Brook and Arbor Oaks apartments. Those complexes, with 120 units each, were originally scheduled for completion in 2011 and 2020.
Even with the new apartments, a housing shortage remains, and five more residence halls and two apartment complexes are envisioned over the next 20 years. One of those residence halls could be added as soon as 2006.
More labs and classrooms
The biggest project in the near future is the 123,000-square-foot Chemistry and Physics Building, to be located east of the Chemistry Research Building. Construction is scheduled to begin within the next nine months.
Science Dean Neal Smatresk said that outdated equipment as well as safety concerns with Science Hall have hastened plans for the new facility, originally scheduled for construction in 2007.
"The old science building is an ancient building," he said. "The bottom line is that it was time for parts of that building to be retired." Administrators hope to have the new building ready for occupancy by spring 2006. It will feature a planetarium as well as facilities for the high energy physics program.
Once the building opens, research faculty and their lab facilities will move into it and construction crews will clear out their former areas, renovating much of Science Hall into lecture rooms—another kind of space greatly needed in an era of expanding enrollment.
"We have a significant shortage of classroom and office space," explained John Hall, associate vice president for finance and operations. That's why another campus addition opened this semester. The Pachl Classroom and Office Building, a temporary, modular structure, now sits on the former site of Pachl Hall, a men's residence hall that was demolished last year. When other classroom and office facilities become available, the temporary building will make way for a fine arts performance hall.
"When the original master plan was approved in 2000, it was not something that we planned to put on the shelf," Hall said. "We'll be updating it and making changes every few years."
One innovative idea, set to begin construction this fall, is a joint venture between UTA and the city of Arlington. The 60,000-square-foot facility at West Mitchell and South Pecan streets will house UTA Continuing Education and approximately 11 Metroplex agencies, all focused on job training and retraining.
"The facility will provide one-stop shopping for employer training needs and will provide an excellent new location for UTA's Continuing Education program," Dr. Witt said. The University will occupy approximately 20 percent of the facility, and the remainder will be rented to tenants. The city will provide approximately $1.5 million of the project's $8.5 million price tag.
"This is something that the University is very excited about," Hall added.
Expansion to the west
Baseball fans are excited about changes under way at the UTA baseball stadium. One of the biggest renovations is a new lighting system for night games. Hall expects phase one of the multi-part project to be ready for opening day of the 2003 season.
Fine arts professors and students are pleased about their new facilities as well. Construction on a workshop and classroom building is set to begin in February and should be finished in less than a year. The fine arts structure, to be erected east of Maverick Stadium, will house facilities for painting, printmaking, metals, glassblowing, sculpture and clay studios.
Art and Art History Chairman Andy Anderson said the building will better meet the needs of studio artists. "What we have now are more office-type classrooms," he noted. "We need more industrial-type rooms."
Visiting Assistant Professor Susan Sitzes, who teaches metalsmithing and jewelry design, said her students are enthusiastic about the coming move. "The new space will be laid out efficiently and for specific purposes. We will be able to upgrade certain areas from a safety standpoint as well as provide much-needed ventilation. Noise is always an issue with us due to all the hammering, and this new space will address that, too. Ultimately, this should allow us to employ new processes and techniques that we were unable to use before."
Other projects under construction or consideration are a health club in the Activities Building and renovating the intramural fields, the NanoFab Center and the Engineering Lab Building.
"Our campus master plan is the product of a shared effort involving faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends who together have 'imagined' their campus two decades into the future," Dr. Witt said. "U.T. Arlington's campus master plan is a blueprint for success."
A success that former students may not recognize the next time they set foot on campus.