UT announced today an aggressive student housing redevelopment plan that will transform the student experience and accommodate the growth in student learning communities. The plan involves replacing six residence halls around Presidential Court with seven new modern facilities in five years.
The approximately $234 million project would replace existing high-rise facilities—all built in the 1960s—with three- and four-floor modern structures in a new village-style student-focused community.
The project would be funded through housing and dining revenues. Revenues from the student beautification fee would fund new courtyards, greenways, and outdoor amenities.
UT will seek approval from its Board of Trustees and the State Building Commission to expand an already-approved residence hall project that involves the demolition of Shelbourne Towers on Twentieth Street and the building of a new residence hall on the site.
If the expanded plan is approved, UT will build six new residence halls and one community and dining facility by 2019.
UT Executive Director of Housing Frank Cuevas said the buildings would be sustainable and embrace the collegiate Gothic style to achieve “a more residential feel.” A modern and flexible design will also allow students to furnish more of their own rooms. Each residence hall will have additional gathering and study spaces and laundry facilities on each floor, he added.
The university updated its plans after consultants helped take a closer look at its goals and plans for extensive renovations to South Carrick, North Carrick, Humes, Reese, Morrill, and the Apartment Residence halls. Consultants determined that it is more cost-effective to build new buildings than to renovate existing halls.
Building new structures will allow the university to achieve its goals for student engagement through better integration of dining, study and common space, meeting space, and outdoor gathering spaces. The redevelopment will also better accommodate the university’s growing number of living/learning communities, where students of similar majors, interests, and academic programs reside on the same floor.
“We took a step back and began assessing our future needs and what we could do to offer students the kind of amenities and experiences they desire,” Cuevas said. “We know from our student focus groups that our current facilities are a barrier to student engagement and interaction. This project will transform their residential experience and the overall campus community.”
The project could begin as early as spring 2014 with the demolition of Shelbourne Towers. An aggressive building schedule would bring several new halls online in 2016, with additional halls to open in 2018 and 2019.
UT is currently building its first new residence hall in fourty-three years. The Fred Brown Residence Hall will house 700 students when it opens next fall. Earlier this year UT announced plans to demolish Gibbs Hall and build a new residence hall and dining facility and a parking garage on the Stokely Athletics Building site. That project will commence this spring. Goals are to open the new hall by 2016.
The plan announced today will replace an older housing inventory with new modern facilities. This plan replaces the six halls with slightly fewer beds. UT, however, expects to have more than 7,600 beds overall by 2019, since the opening of Gibbs will add 500 new beds. The current Gibbs Hall has 200 beds and plans for the new hall will accommodate 700 beds. The plan also allows for flexibility to accommodate future enrollment growth.
The new plans complement UT’s campus master plan goals for improving pedestrian and bicycle access. The new housing plan will extend the Joe Johnson–John Ward Pedestrian Mall to Twentieth Street by closing more of Andy Holt Avenue to vehicles. By fall 2018, Melrose Avenue also would become a new “avenue of learning,” a pedestrian cobblestone walkway connecting the new community to the new Fred Brown Residence Hall, Hodges Library, and other central points.
Cuevas said the plan aims to make UT more competitive for recruiting new students and help propel the university toward its goal of becoming a Top 25 public institution.
“We need to do a better job of making them feel that they are at home even when away from home,” he said. “This plan will allow us to offer what we should as we aspire to become a Top 25 public research university.”
Approximately 7,300 students currently live in eleven existing facilities on the UT campus.
Karen Simsen (865-974-5186, firstname.lastname@example.org)