Universe Project will affect campus parking

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Some U students fear the decrease in parking availability caused by a mixed-use development to be built in Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot will lead to more hassle than benefit.

During the project’s construction period, U commuters will lose 940 parking spaces in the west stadium parking lot, said Alma Allred, director of U Commuter Services. Allred said he is not sure if students will have access to the project’s multi-level parking structure once it is complete.

“Where are those 1,000 cars going to go?” asked Vanessa Vicente, a senior in international studies and political science.

The Universe Project, which proposes to transform the west parking lot of the football stadium into a housing, retail, office space and parking development, began three years ago as an urban planning class project, said Brenda Scheer, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning.

“A lot of students commute,” she said. “So students designed a place with transit-oriented development.”

The project idea passed to an architecture class and then to a graduate student.

“The project came from students making changes to have a college town, missing what they don’t have here,” Scheer said.

The U administration and the developer for the proposed project, Inland American Communities, have made changes to the original student design, which eliminated the residences adjacent to the west stadium parking lot to make room for parking, according to Scheer.

The additions made by Inland include a grocery store, a multi-level parking structure and a road connecting the center of the development with 500 South and South Campus Drive on the 8-acre parking lot.

“One of the project goals is to replace all existing surface parking in structured parking on site,” said Deborah Alto, a U architect and project manager for the Universe Project. Alto said the project coordinators still need to gather information from a traffic study to decide how much parking the development will need.

Jimmy Zae Jo Daeus, an undeclared sophomore, said he opposes the project, which is still in its preliminary stages, because any decrease in parking will inconvenience students. “Parking can make a difference if I get to class on time,” he said. “Parking is hard enough. That makes it harder to choose the U over other schools.”

Garrett Sweeney, a sophomore in finance, said with the Universe Project, the campus administration might sacrifice the students’ quality of life for a potential source of revenue.

“If the area was used for students, it would be a good idea,” he said.

Sweeney is concerned that the decrease in parking access will deter potential students from applying to the U.

“If they want to decrease commuting, they would need to increase student housing substantially,” he said. “It’s so small. Everyone from out of state goes there, and the U expects everyone from in state to stay at home and commute. They’re putting money before students’ needs.”

Project coordinators’ request for qualifications and a market survey performed by the U last year states the broad goals of the project, one of which is to “take advantage of the mass transit opportunities made available through the TRAX.”

Vicente said she doubts students will take TRAX when they are used to driving.

“I don’t understand what the point is behind this,” she said. “TRAX can only help so much.”

Katherine Kingston, a junior in finance, drives from Sandy to the U for her classes because she doesn’t like waiting for TRAX. She said the decrease in parking worries her.

“The parking lot is already crowded enough,” she said.

Another goal of the project is to “provide amenities that will attract outstanding students, exceptional faculty and the public,” according to the request for qualifications.

Kim Weber, a senior in biology, uses TRAX to commute from Sandy and said she likes the idea of having food services close to TRAX.

“It will be nice to have food options there, makes things easier,” she said.

Weber said she would want things in the development that don’t compete with local businesses.

“I don’t like the idea if you bring in a big chain to compete with local businesses,” she said. “I’d prefer local over big chain. They tend to have better food.”

Keith Hambrecht, a senior in material science, said he supports the project, but said the scale of the development sounds impractical.

“Parking is essential to the area,” he said. “That stadium area isn’t very big.”

Hambrecht said he would feel better about the project if the stores were local businesses. “They have more of a community feel,” he said.

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