Speedway Mall renovation project presented to students, public

Rachel Freeman

The Speedway Mall renovation project, a long-standing goal for several UT presidents, was presented to students and the general public in a meeting Monday. 

After years of planning and revisions, a final version of the Walker plan, designed by landscape architecture firm Peter Walker and Partners, was approved to move forward in May this year. According to the current plan, construction will be done in a series of five stages, beginning in October and concluding in December 2017. There will be a 20 percent decrease in paved areas and a 20 percent increase in planted areas to improve aesthetics and mobility while maintaining room for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, according to the plan. 

Plans were first made for renovations to Speedway and the East Mall by Peter Walker and Partners in 2007. However, UT paused the project in 2008 due to lack of funding, and the project was scaled back in 2014 to include only renovations to Speedway.  

According to Tim Sueltenfuss, a presenter from Galen Driscol, a communications firm that presented parts of the plan, the meeting aimed to share information with the public about the design and construction.

“Speedway will provide a place for students and student organizations to gather,” Sueltenfuss said. “This campus renovation will make a significant contribution to the learning experience for all UT students.”

Brian Gillett, an associate with Peter Walker and Partners who has worked on the Speedway project for a year and a half, spoke on the current state of Speedway and how the renovations intend to improve the conditions. 

“Speedway is currently in a state of disrepair and deterioration,” Gillett said. “The overarching design concept for the Speedway mall is to transform the mall with a single unified design vocabulary that reflects UT-Austin as a world-class university.”

Gillett said a vital aspect of the design is to make Speedway a “pedestrian-centered” area. 

Environmental science junior Zoi Thompson, who commutes to campus on a bike every day, said she is concerned the Speedway project has not taken cyclist and student safety into priority.

“This meeting has been very educational, but I still have concerns about the chances of injury in an open area roadway,” Thompson said. “I’ve asked about paintings or signs on the roadways to designate areas. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they won’t consider any changes until they see what happens as the project moves forward.”