Speedway to be reconstructed as pedestrian-mall area

Nashwa Bawab

The University will begin construction to renovate Speedway as a pedestrian-mall area on Oct. 26.

According to Pat Clubb, university operations vice president, the Speedway Mall project is a construction plan that will reconstruct Speedway from Jester Circle, near the northern edge of the Blanton Museum, to Dean Keeton Street. Clubb said the project will be completed near the end of 2017 and will utilize the campus space for outdoor learning, organization tabling, campus festivities, concerts and other student activities.

“[Speedway] is a wonderful asset that is not being used, and this project allows us to turn a dull, ugly — this place that students just walk past — into a true activity center,” Clubb said. “I think it will transform the student experience. It will become a place of learning, become a place of social activity. All of the things that will be possible are going to enhance the students’ experience.”

The Speedway Mall Project has a construction price of $27 million and a total project cost of $36 million, which is all being paid for with University funds and donations, according to David Rea, Campus Planning and Project Management associate vice president. Rae said the construction will have several stages, with the first stage beginning at Jester Circle and ending at Inner Campus Drive.

The new Speedway Mall area will be transformed into 70 percent green surfaces and 30 percent hard surfaces, according to Frederick Steiner, School of Architecture dean. Steiner said the new pedestrian area will turn into a campus focal point with lots of trees, tables, outdoor study areas and Wi-Fi.

“The idea is to transform it to make it safer, to make it more environmentally hospitable, to make it more accessible and more usable to students,” Steiner said. “Where 30 years ago, the Main Mall was sort of the center of campus, now Speedway is sort of the center of campus and it should change to reflect that.”

Rea said the new mall area will be made of bricks in a herringbone pattern with flat concrete curbs on either side and a trench drain in the middle to prevent flooding.

“I think it’s going to be transformational for students,” Rea said. “I think students are going to create ways to use it that we can’t even envision at this point.”

Rea said that even though fencing will go up when construction begins, there will be constant access for students who need to use Speedway.

Mechanical engineering sophomore John Peng said he is excited about future concerts that could be held in the new area because it fits Austin’s live music atmosphere, and is a better way to utilize space.

“The area near Greg is often used for student events, and a dedicated space is just a natural progression,” Peng said.

Steiner said when the project is completed, he hopes Speedway Mall will become another aspect that students, faculty, staff and alumni will love about campus.

“There’s an old Joni Mitchell song about tearing up paradise and putting in a parking lot,” Steiner said. “Well, we’re going to be tearing up parking lots and putting in paradise.”

Correction: David Rea is the associate vice president of Campus Planning and Project Management, not vice president. The spelling of his name has also been corrected for accuracy.