North Texas Daily

Students and traffic rerouted due to ongoing construction

Students and traffic rerouted due to ongoing construction

Students and traffic rerouted due to ongoing construction
February 17
23:30 2014

Caitlyn Jones // Staff Writer

Signs still read the University of North Texas, students still wear green and McConnell tower still looms overhead. But this year, the landscape of campus has changed dramatically due to ongoing construction projects involving the University Union, Greek Life Center and the city of Denton.

Students are left trying to navigate around the blue barricades surrounding the Union construction site. Circling the site are artist sketches reminding everyone of what is supposed to exist in that same spot by the summer of 2015: a new $128 million, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum-certified student union.

“We’ve said all along that this is not going to be the easiest process,” Vice President of Student Affairs Elizabeth With said. “There’s going to be some inconveniences along the way.”

One spot of frustration in the walk to class for many students is the pathway between the Hurley Administration building and the construction site. For safety reasons, the barricades have been pushed further toward the administration building, creating a gap of about 3 to 4 feet, barely enough room for three people to pass through side by side. During busy periods, hundreds of students squeeze through the space.

There are talks about whether or not to close the lane completely, With said.

“In the beginning, we decided that it was worth it to have even a little space,” With said. “But if it’s frustrating for the students, maybe it’s better that we don’t have it at all.”

Recruiting newcomers 

The new union has become a recruitment tool for UNT, even though the shell of the old building doesn’t look like much now.

“We tell tours that UNT is always trying to improve,” said Delletia DeFlora, sophomore converged broadcast media major and eagle ambassador. “We tell them that the new union will have more food options and more space. They get really excited about it.”

Most of the complaints come from parents trying to navigate around the unfamiliar campus

“We’ll get calls from parents saying that they can’t find the parking garage,” DeFlora said. “It’s frustrating for them. Signs would be good to direct them to the garage.”

Surrounding streets

Confused drivers have had to deal with another issue this year. Construction began in October to replace water and sewage pipes along Highland Street and repave the road. The efforts will likely continue for several months, City Project manager Rebecca Davini said.

“The city’s goal is to not build infrastructure on streets that have existing problems,” she said. “Highland was already on our list to be fixed.”

Highland Street was one of the many streets approved for repair by the city in the 2012 bond election and repairs will cost $20.4 million, according to the city of Denton website.

The project has hit some road bumps along the way. Construction crews hit two unmarked gas pipes last October causing gas leaks and evacuation of Bruce Hall.

The street is also closed frequently for construction and hindered by traffic. According to the campus master plan, Highland will eventually be a closed street through campus, making it safer for pedestrians.

“Work crews are doing the best they can to direct traffic,” Facilities Director David Reynolds said. “There are always going to be complaints but that’s part of having maintenance done.”

The parking fiasco

On the other side of campus on Welch, parking spots have been removed for the building of a new, $2.6 million Greek Life Center, expected to open in April 2014.

The site is located in the parking lot between Highland and Maple streets taking up a chunk of spots closest to campus.

Even though parking continues to be a problem on campus, With said there’s not much administration can do about it.

“I think people will continue to complain about parking until we get to a time when there’s an acceptance that you won’t be able to park right next to the building where you have class,” With said. “Being able to walk or ride your bike around campus is probably going to be the primary mode of transportation in the future.”

With said more parking garages are planned for the future but did not give a specific date.

Adjusting to the issues

Other problems on campus include a lack of indoor seating. Sage Hall has served as a refuge for hungry students trying to keep warm and dry from the recent weather.

“Of course, this would be the coldest winter that we can all remember when we need it the least,” With said. “I’ve got housing folks and dining folks trying to brainstorm to identify more places where students can sit, but obviously we can’t take away from classroom space.”

Despite the kinks encountered with the construction on campus, UNT administration tries to fix all problems and offer students the same amenities in the Stovall Temporary Union Building, or STUB.

New signage has been placed around campus informing students they still have a place to mail packages, handle finances and hang out with friends.

“My friends use the space sometimes but it’s not the same,” DeFlora said. “The union was a social gathering place. Now everyone just goes to school and then goes home.”

For the time being, students must grow accustomed to the changes for the hope of a better future for the university, whether they are here or not.

“We’re happy to hear what the students have to say,” With said. “If we can make changes to make things more convenient for them, we certainly will.”

Feature photo: Construction crews work on the second floor of the University Union. Construction began in August and will continue into the summer of 2015. Crews have been slowed down due to inclement weather over the winter but the grand opening of the new union is still set for August of 2015. Photo by Caitlyn Jones / Staff Writer 

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