University plans for second parking structure

Lindsey Reed

Diddle Arena might soon wind up in the middle of a concrete sandwich.

Despite new plans to add a second parking structure, drivers will lose some of the much coveted spots that were discussed in the original plan last spring.

Western administrators are planning to build the new parking structure between Smith Stadium and Diddle, a project that would convert a student fee created last semester into new parking.

But some Board of Regents members aren’t yet satisfied with the plan.

The existing parking structure was originally going to be expanded with the fee, but structural problems prompted administrators to build a new one.

The new parking structure would be funded through a $36 semester fee created last year.

The structure would be five stories, but will be built in a way to allow more levels to be added later, said Ed West, director of planning, design and construction.

West said the entire parking project would cost $10 million with $7.5 million going toward the new structure.

Another $3 to $5 million would be spent on repairs to the current structure and other parking improvements.

President Gary Ransdell said that the plan is to break ground this summer and finish by fall 2005.

“I want to keep construction confined to one academic year,” he said.

The new parking structure would take between one-half and two-thirds of the space between Smith Stadium and Diddle, with the rest of the area designated as green space.

West said the current plan would give a net addition of 800 spaces, but that figure includes spaces added on Dogwood Drive and spaces gained from re-stripping the existing structure.

In the original parking deck plan, 900 spaces were to be added to the current parking structure as elevated and ground spaces, West said.

All 400 parking spots in Diddle lot would be lost as the structure is built.

Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and campus services, said the $36 fee students are charged each semester goes to building the new parking structure, repairing the current structure and adding parking near the existing structure.

Tice said the 900 spaces that were originally planned were decreased by 200 because Facilities Management was unable to relocate from the existing parking structure.

Facilities cannot move because the budget wasn’t large enough to put up a new building.

Ransdell said the new parking structure will be modeled to look similar to the Downing University Center.

John Bradley, president of the Student Government Association, said he thinks adding green space around the new parking garage and making aesthetic changes to the existing parking garage is not a good idea.

There will be 125 spaces lost for the reserved green space, Bradley said.

Bradley said he thinks changes to extend the life of the existing parking structure are acceptable, but staining the structure to make it look like surrounding buildings is a waste of money.

Ransdell said a large project requires dealing with the aesthetics of the campus.

West said five months of recent planning was devoted to studying the north and south sides of the parking structure for expansions.

“We went through a lot of different options, and the best option was to build a new parking deck,” he said.

John Osborne, vice president of campus services and facilities, said during the Board of Regents meeting last week that the existing parking structure was built in 1970.

West said parking structures generally do not last as long as other buildings, and 20-30 years is the average life-span for a parking structure.

Salt carried in from cars is a problem because gets into the concrete and deteriorates the steel over the years, he said.

Maintenance work on the current parking structure will include repairing the steel post tension, which will help to support the concrete, and adding a coating to limit salt damage, he said.

Charles Barnhart, of Sherman-Carter-Barnhart architecture firm, said he was hired six months ago as an architect for the new parking structure and presented a plan for the construction at the regents meeting.

Despite the planned improvements, Western may have to consider demolishing the existing structure in 20 years, he said last week.

If the existing parking structure was torn down and replaced with a new one, 990 existing spaces would be gone, West said.

Facilities Management, Environmental Health and Safety, Construction Management and the campus police would all have to relocate if the parking structure was torn down, he said.

A special regents meeting is expected to be called within the next two weeks to discuss budget and parking issues further.

Herald reporter Shawntaye Hopkins contributed to this story.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]