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Thursday, April 25, 2024

UF’s 11 construction projects bring changes — and frustration — to campus

The projects are from UF’s Campus Master Plan and Landscape Master Plan and will continue until 2023

Blocked-off streets with signs reading “Road Closed” and fences covered in green mesh fabric stretch across campus walkways and streets. This is the campus landscape UF students face this semester.

The university is undergoing construction of 11 projects from its Campus Master Plan and Landscape Master Plan. The construction, which is expected to be completed in 2023, is part of its larger effort to enhance UF’s campus. 

However, on-campus road closures have affected faculty members’ and students’ commute to work and classes, as well as RTS bus routes and stops.

Currently, 26 bus routes are detoured due to the construction projects happening across campus, a UF Transportation and Parking Division email read. These changes have not yet been updated on the TransLoc app, which still shows pre-construction routes.

Gina Crespo, a 21-year-old UF biology junior, relies on the bus to drop her off near her classes on Museum Drive. However, she said she noticed the route changes when her trek to class became longer.

“I also had the app for the buses and noticed that all the routes were completely changed but not updated on the actual app, so that was a little bit confusing,” Crespo said.

She said she understands the construction is necessary but believes students should at least be updated through the app so they can figure out what new bus routes to take.

Once construction on campus is done, Crespo said she thinks the frustration with the bus route changes will lessen. As of now, it’s just another burden for students.

Campus Connector shuttle routes, Gator Lift, SNAP and Campus Cab have also adjusted, closed or relocated several pick-up and drop-off areas that were blocked due to construction, a TAPS email read.

Students and faculty also face issues with commuting and parking on campus due to decal enforcement changes and road closures.

Hannah Vander Zanden, an assistant professor at UF’s biology department, said she has had difficulties finding parking because of the Museum Road reclosure.

“It would be nice to have a campus that was easier for people to commute to without cars, but the reality is, I have to bring a 2 year old to campus,” she said. “And even though I’m within biking distance, my husband and I don’t feel comfortable putting him in a bike to do that.”’

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Vander Zanden was disappointed in the purpose of some of UF’s new construction. Despite UF’s mission to address energy use and be more sustainable, the commuter lot on Museum Road is blocked for the construction of a new energy plant. The goal of UF’s plant project is to stray away from steam production for a combined heat and power approach. 

“My realization of that recently was a lot of disappointment in UF for not planning for reliance and more renewables,” she said. “We have experts on campus who could tell you a lot about better ways to continue our energy production on campus in a renewable climate-friendly way.”

Construction would also lead to the removal of trees on campus, but UF’s Landscape Master Plan states it will plant more shade trees along walkways and other open areas on campus to make up for the losses — something Vander Zanden said she supports.

“I think it’s great that UF is expanding facilities,” she said. “I think they just need to take into account what the losses are and also be planning for long-term sustainability, and I don’t necessarily see that happening.”

All construction projects have been in the planning stages since 2016, UF director of construction Frank Javaheri wrote in an email. Now, UF is on the next steps of beginning construction for some of its long-term designs.

Following UF’s plan to make campus more pedestrian-friendly, the university is transforming its core into an auto-free zone and implementing gateway projects.

The university will replace some roadways with a curbless, brick-paved walkway to connect the Reitz Union Lawn to the Plaza of the Americas. The Reitz lawn section of construction is expected to be complete by next month.

The gateway projects will incorporate more pedestrian access into campus at the intersection of Newell Drive and West University Avenue, according to the Landscape Master Plan. They will also provide a connection from UF to the Innovation District in downtown Gainesville. A drop-off area will be built next to Tigert Hall.

The Newell Gateway is expected to be complete by December and the Northeast Gateway by March.

A new indoor football training facility is also under construction adjacent to the O’Connell Center. The arena, which is expected to be completed by July, will fit almost two-and-a-half football fields and will host all football support activities, including coaching, nutrition, physical conditioning and medical care.

The university continues the demolition process of the original home of the WRUF Radio Station to replace it with a new Public Safety building. The new building, expected to be completed by September, will be three stories tall and will renovate the existing Centrex Building to 6,000 square feet, Javaheri wrote. 

It will house the UF Police Department, the Department of Emergency Management and the Emergency Operations Center. The facility will allow officers to respond to blue light phone calls, access camera footage on entry points and assist with 911 calls using video footage if cameras are in the area.

The current UF Student Health Care Center on Fletcher Drive was originally designed in 1931 and will be replaced by a new building housing all current functions of the infirmary, including primary medical and psychiatric care, the women’s clinic, Javaheri wrote. The new infirmary will be located in the southwestern portion of UF’s campus, according to the Campus Master Plan.

With an expected completion date of October 2022, the plan will also relocate the Counseling and Wellness Services, currently located on Radio Road, to the new SHCC to provide a closer location for students living in campus housing.

The Malachowsky Hall for Data Science and Information Technology is also under construction in UF’s campus core, with an expected completion of April 2023.

The building will house faculty and researchers from the College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the UF Informatics Institute to conduct their data research in a collaborative way.

The new Honors College Residential Complex, a four-building residential complex for undergraduate honors students, is expected to begin construction later this month.

The project is expected to be completed by July 2023 to provide 1,400 beds for undergraduate and honors students to accommodate for the increase in demand for campus housing and minimize the amount of overflow housing, Javaheri wrote.

But, as the Honors Complex will replace the Broward Outdoor Recreational Complex, UF RecSports announced the facility will be permanently closing Sunday, upsetting many students.

One student started a petition in hopes of postponing the demolition process or closure of the outdoor recreation facility until at least two of the projects in the area are completed and there is a new, fully functioning facility on East campus.

As of Sept. 19, the petition has garnered more than 500 signatures.

UF plans to reallocate the Broward Outdoor Recreational Complex, but the new location is still unknown. 

Contact Camila Pereira at Follow her on Twitter @CamilaSaPereira.

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Camila Pereira

Camila is a third-year journalism student and the administration reporter on the university desk. When she is not reporting for The Alligator, Camila is always listening to music and probably drinking honey milk tea.

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