Neighbors concerned about Research Park expansion

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

People from neighborhoods surrounding the U voiced concerns to U representatives Thursday about excess development on campus, particularly in Research Park, during a meeting to showcase upcoming developments and building proposals.

Campus planners presented plans new bicycle paths, sustainability efforts on campus and for future buildings and parking lots. Much of the meeting focused on development in Research Park, which could undergo parking and housing construction in the next few years.

Part of the Campus Master Plan intends to expand housing and parking for non-university tenants who demonstrate a need for increased office, research and parking space. Some Research Park tenants, such as ARUP and Idaho Technologies, are outgrowing their current buildings.

Neighbors near the U said the developments are too much for their communities.

“Will there ever come a point when the U says, “We’ve crammed as much as we can in this little area,’ and look to see if there are any other options ?” asked Bryan Jensen, a trustee for the Sunnyside East Association. Sunnyside Avenue runs along the south side of Research Park and University Village.

Sunnyside, Foothill and Federal Heights residents expressed concern that the planned increases in parking would lead to further traffic congestion in an already overcrowded area at the intersection of Foothill and Sunnyside.

Residents and U planners agreed that increased parking is a temporary fix.

“Non-university tenants need to start to encourage using mass transit,” said Mike Perez, associate vice president for facilities management. Perez said that on the other hand, the U has a history of making structures permanent that were originally intended to be temporary.

University Boulevard resident Jonathan Ramras echoed Perez’s concern.

“If we don’t start changing that mindset, then things won’t change,” he said. “If you don’t put parking in, then they won’t park and they will start to use mass transit.”

Research Park houses approximately 7,531 employees and the list is growing.

Other concerns from residents included the lack of sidewalks in Research Park, the lack of disability parking in Red Butte Garden and the possibility of a lowered speed limit with the increase of bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

The next community forum is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 23, 2009.

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