Bean: Universe Project will aid student involvement

By Alex Bean, Opinion Columnist

There’s no doubt the U is a commuter school. With more than 25,000 students and only about 2,300 living on campus, there are a lot of people coming and going. The nature of the U can be frustrating for students who are looking for a more tight-knit college community.

The proposed Universe Project could perhaps erase those frustrations by providing a place for students to hang out. Despite criticism of the project, the proposal should go through in order to keep students on campus and promote campus community.

As part of the campus master plan, the Universe Project calls for the construction of a mixed-use development on the parking lot just west of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Plans for the project include restaurants, administrative offices and retail space.

A vibrant, mixed-use development is just what the U needs in that area. Currently, the first Trax stop on campus dumps all visitors in a massive, barren parking lot-hardly an inviting introduction to the campus.

If done correctly, the Universe Project could be a great asset to the community. Besides the Union, which is really just a glorified cafeteria, there really isn’t a place for students to hang out and mingle. Too many students just come and go to class without sticking around. For students living in Salt Lake City, the project could provide a more cohesive student hang-out. If the development avoids big chain restaurants, this could be the place for students to gather. Instead of national chain restaurants, a coffee house or pub would be a great place for students to interact.

Some students have voiced concern over parking availability. Parking on campus is tight as it is for a commuter school, and the loss of the stadium parking lot would make things worse. However, the Universe Project includes plans for a new parking structure, partly underground, which should provide about the same number of parking spaces already available.

With the large size of the U, we may never achieve the tight-knit community feel of some other smaller colleges, but the Universe Project will help. Should the project go through, it will encourage students to spend more time hanging out on campus, and less time commuting.

[email protected]