As The University of Texas at El Paso approaches the celebration of its 100th anniversary, the University has begun a new phase in the recent expansion of its campus facilities.
On July 23, UTEP President Diana Natalicio unveiled final renderings for eight projects that will use pedestrian walkways and green spaces to knit together campus buildings, creating a climate consistent with UTEP's development as a national research (Tier One) university with a 21st century student demographic.
The projects will create quality-of-life enhancements not only for the UTEP campus, but for the city of El Paso.
“This aesthetically pleasing campus transformation project seeks to accommodate our anticipated growth while also strengthening UTEP’s civic structure – the primary organizational framework of outdoor public spaces and their interconnections,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “At the heart of this is the creation of a continuous pedestrian environment that uses walkways and green spaces to knit together campus buildings, creating more inviting spaces for studying, relaxing and collaboration that will greatly enrich our quality of life.”
University leaders believe that well-designed landscapes play a vital role in the recruitment, retention, and academic success of college students, and that the campus environment can promote good health. UTEP’s newly designed outdoor spaces will contribute to a sense of community and offer students greater opportunities to excel.
Interconnected walkways, bike paths and organic campus trails will improve circulation to and from classes and increase pedestrian safety. Interspersed among the walkways will be shady retreats where students, faculty and staff can study or relax with friends while enjoying El Paso’s fine year-round weather.
The campus transformation will reduce the amount of pavement on campus and create a greener environment that uses native landscaping and creates shade while filtering the air and water. Subsurface irrigation, rainwater harvesting and other responsible water use techniques will reduce maintenance and utility costs. The University will use a variety of drought-tolerant shade trees and environmentally sensitive shrubs that are native to the Chihuahuan Desert or that grow well in the region.
“The campus transformation project, designed by Lake/Flato and Ten Eyck architectural firms, honors UTEP’s rich heritage, our unique setting on the U.S.-Mexico border and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert,” Natalicio said. “It increases pride in UTEP and reinforces our collective commitment to excellence as we look forward to our next 100 years of service to this region.”
The campus transformation includes the following projects:
Old Main/Circle Drive
To complement the western gateway to campus, which includes the new Bhutanese-style pedestrian overpass on Sun Bowl Drive and the “Mining Minds” pickaxe sculpture in the roundabout at the intersection of Sun Bowl Drive and University Avenue, UTEP is planning to create another major campus entrance landmark for those who approach campus on University Avenue from Oregon and Mesa streets. The University Avenue Eastern Gateway will feature a portal spanning the street with a bridge that crosses the arroyo. A car/pedestrian plaza near the bridge will provide easy passenger loading and unloading.
In addition, new shaded patios and pavilions at the western entrance of Union West and in front of the Psychology Building will create unique spaces where students can gather in a protected environment to extend the classroom experience outdoors.
The parking spaces that will be eliminated from inner campus streets have already been replaced with new spaces in the Schuster Parking Garage and a new surface lot on Sun Bowl Drive, for a net gain of 582 parking spaces in the last two years.
The campus transformation kicked off July 23 with a groundbreaking event for the Bhutanese lhakhang that will be reconstructed on the lawn northeast of the Geological Sciences Building. In 2008, the people of Bhutan presented the hand-carved and hand-painted lhakhang to the people of the United States at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., with instructions that the structure should be installed permanently on the UTEP campus.
In addition to the lhakhang, work has already begun on Hawthorne Street. The Wiggins Road project is slated to begin in late 2012 for completion in spring 2013. Centennial Plaza in the heart of campus is planned for completion by the end of 2014 to coincide with the University’s 100th birthday celebration.
The campus transformation projects are expected to cost a total of up to $25 million. The University has already identified funding for the Hawthorne Street and Wiggins Road projects. UTEP will generate funds for the remaining campus transformation projects through fundraising efforts tied to UTEP’s $200 million Centennial Campaign. Prospective donors are encouraged to visit campus.utep.edu to learn more about the projects and click on the “Give Now” link to make a contribution.