UPDATE: Plans for UT’s Medical School would straighten out Red River, remove Frank Erwin Center


The 2012 master plan, which will help shape the University’s growth for the next 25 to 30 years, includes plans for the new UT med school area, pictured above. The master plan proposes the possibility of removing the Frank Erwin Center.

Jordan Rudner

Update: The Board of Regents approved the $334.5 million plan Thursday morning. Read here for more details.

Original Story: Austin’s winding Red River Street may be straightened out to accommodate the new UT medical school, according to the new UT Campus Master Plan presented by architecture professor Lawrence Speck at Wednesday’s UT System Board of Regents meeting.

The 2012 master plan, which will help shape the University’s growth for the next 25 to 30 years, focused mainly on the architectural efficiency of the central campus area, which is to the east of San Jacinto Boulevard and currently encompasses the School of Law, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and Fine Arts buildings. The presentation also focused on the land that will be designated for the planned medical school. Speck said the last campus master plan was published in 1996.

The  UT Campus Master Plan divides the campus into three areas — core, central and east.

President William Powers Jr. said the master plan is critical to the expansion of the campus.

“We have engaged historically in a master plan process to look out over the next 25 years and make sure what we’re planning and doing is consistent, rather than just making decisions on an ad hoc basis,” Powers said.

Speck emphasized the need for increased density in central campus but said this density can include lawns and other social spaces.

“Right now, central campus is really nobody’s favorite part of campus,” Speck said. “There’s not much shade in the area – it’s just not a place where there’s a lot of lively campus activity, and we want to create more lively spaces for those activities to occur.”

Speck said the UT Medical District land presents multiple architectural challenges, citing five state- and city-designated Capitol view corridors — sightlines where the capitol must be visible — as an example. He said one of the biggest impediments to building on the land is the winding Red River Street, which divides the blocks unevenly. The plan proposes a street realignment which would put Red River on a grid with surrounding streets.

“[Red River Street] has never carried much traffic, but it’s a very wide street,” Speck said. “It creates strangely shaped parcels of land, where the grid [that used to be in place] made for much more sensible parcels.”

The master plan proposes multiple other changes, which will be implemented in stages over the next five to 10 years. The Frank Erwin Center, Collections Deposit Library and Denton A. Cooley Pavilion are all slated for removal, while other sites will be converted for short-term use for the medical school, such as the 15th Street parking garage.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa asked about the accessibility of the third section of the UT campus, which is land to the east of Interstate 35.

“In looking at this plan, the only part where continuity seems to be somewhat compromised is the flow of people and individuals to that east side,” Cigarroa said. “Are there corridors where you can facilitate that path?”

Speck said he was confident that such corridors existed but also said this was not the focus of the current plan.

“At Manor Road, there’s a good connection across I-35, but we have not really fully utilized that connection,” Speck said. “That’s going to be absolutely critical, that we strengthen that connection … [but] this phase did not emphasize that so much.”