Fall construction poses obstacles

London Gibson

Students returning to UT after a summer away may have to find new routes around campus, as major campus construction has migrated northeast near Speedway and Robert A. Welch Hall.

The renovation of Welch Hall’s 1978 wing will block portions of Inner Campus Drive and border additional development on Speedway, resulting in several areas of obstruction near the intersection of Speedway and 24th Street.

“(The 1978 wing) is pretty much out of use right now, so students will be diverted around that construction, and that kind of merges with part of the Speedway mall project,” said Laurie Lentz, communications manager for Financial and Administrative Services.

The renovation of Welch Hall’s 1978 wing is the most recent to come to campus and will continue into February of 2020. The wing will be out of use by students and faculty for over two years while crews work on revamping the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as adjusting the layout of the lab and classroom spaces.

“It’s going to be a very different space,” Lentz said.

As part of the Welch Hall renovation, a new greenhouse is in the process of being built on the roof of the Norman Hackerman Building to replace the greenhouse on the roof of Welch Hall, which will be removed during the renovation. The new greenhouse will be completed and open for student use by October.

For students like physics junior Aaron Bae, construction means new, longer routes to class. Bae said campus development has slowed his route every day of his previous two years at UT. He said he has taken classes in Welch Hall, and he would rather see the campus improving other buildings, like Robert Lee Moore Hall.

“(Campus construction) has not brought much improvement,” Bae said.

Business freshman Clarissa Castillo said though campus construction comes with its obstacles, she thinks it will improve the campus overall.

“It’s definitely a benefit in the long run,” Castillo said.

In addition to work on the north end of Speedway, the south end near the Blanton Museum will also be home to construction. The installation of an art piece entitled “Austin” by Ellsworth Kelly will continue until late in the semester.

Additional areas of construction on and near campus include continued work on Robert B. Rowling Hall and the east campus tennis facility, as well as the development of new graduate student housing in east campus, which is set to begin late fall.

Work on the Engineering Education and Resource Center in north campus was completed over the summer, but students can still expect to see workers in the area making improvements, Lentz said.

The Speedway Mall renovation began in the fall of 2015 and is expected to be completed by spring of next year. Lentz said as of this semester, the project remains on schedule.

The City of Austin also finalized projects near campus in the previous few months, such as construction on the Guadalupe Street intersections of North Lamar Boulevard and East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

“(We did) work over the summer to ensure it wouldn’t be happening when school was in session,” said Alexandria Bruton, Austin’s senior public information specialist.

Bruton said the only construction that may affect students this fall are minor spot repairs on North Guadalupe Street, which began earlier this month and may cause lane closures during the daytime.