PROVO -- Provo's neighborhood chairmen received a surprise announcement at their Tuesday night meeting when representatives from Brigham Young University presented plans for a three-phase redesign of the north and east sides of campus that will eventually include closing Campus Drive and turning the area into a walking plaza for students.
"We are connecting campus to make a unified whole," BYU attorney Steve Sandberg said. "By the end we will be unifying and beautifying campus."
The desire is to have enhanced green space, more safety for pedestrians and more car-free housing, Sandberg added. A housing change around Heritage Halls is in the future but not part of this project.
According to BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins, the first phase will be in tandem with the Central Utah Project's pipeline construction and Provo City's buildout of 900 East this summer. BYU's project will begin May 1 and will last for three years.
Motorists on campus will be able to access the BYU Law School parking lot from 900 East and from the existing south entrances. Those coming from Bulldog Boulevard up to the Administration Building and Museum of Art will use the new roundabout exits to get into those parking lots. All lots will be reconfigured and special dedicated parking will be made available for the Alumni Center.
The first phase will include redirecting parking stalls to match the walking patterns of east to west instead of north to south at the BYU law school, adding a roundabout and plaza area at the Wilkinson Center and a new intersection on 900 East by the ROTC building. Phase two will be changing the parking, sidewalk and intersections by the Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center, which will still be accessible to cars, and up the hill from Bulldog Boulevard. Phase three will finish the project with a roundabout on the road approximately between the two sky bridges to the Marriott Center; the roundabout will feed cars into the administration and Museum of Art parking lots. From there to the Wilkinson Center the road will be replaced with plaza, including flowers, trees, shrubs and other amenities. The three-phase project is scheduled for completion by fall 2015.
One thing BYU representatives made clear -- they are listening to suggestions from residents. While the redesign will happen, all things aren't completely set in stone.
"We received wonderful feedback at the meeting," Jenkins said. "We want to continue to work with the chairmen and improve BYU."
Provo spokesman Corey Norman said, "Things might be moving faster than our residents are used to, but timing of this project is critical. We need to be ready with designs for 900 East as the CUP pipeline moves north. Our goal is to make sure transportation around campus is enhanced. This includes more ways to get onto campus and a more pedestrian-friendly experience."
Community development director Gary McGinn said the project will require people to change their travel routes in the coming days, but it will be a great opportunity to work with BYU while 900 East is dug up.
"I think the campus will be beautiful with the pedestrian plaza. This isn't better or worse, it's just different," McGinn said.
Utah Transit Authority regional general manager Hugh Johnson said that while UTA hasn't been able to fully analyze the proposal yet, work on 900 East will also help UTA with infrastructure for the future Bus Rapid Transit system.
"This project is consistent with BRT and our future plans to service BYU," Johnson said. He noted that UTA will make modifications on its current routes in April in preparation for the changes and construction.
Joaquin neighborhood chairman Leo Lines has lived in the area for 31 years and is concerned about the closures.
"I had heard about this plan, but I thought they'd never do it," Lines said. "My main concern is how do we get to and from campus. You're going to have to get on the Starship Enterprise to get into campus."
Lines did say it was the first time he has seen BYU come to the neighbors to share what they are doing and was grateful. That said, there are a number of concerns, like displacing UTA buses to 900 East and parking issues.
Jenkins said university officials took copious notes at the meeting and will be meeting with individual neighborhoods as well. Jenkins also noted that as far as parking, the university already has programs to help students with parking and transportation issues, such as the Bike Share program where students can lease a bike. There also is a Hertz Car sharing program that allows students to rent a car for as little as an hour, for a date, to shop or to visit friends. There also are apartment shuttles that bring students in from outlying complexes like Raintree Apartments on Freedom Boulevard.
"I'm grateful that staff members from BYU are coming to the residents and sharing with them their plans," Provo Mayor John Curtis said. "Brigham Young is an important part of our community and it's imperative that we organize together in order to make navigation around campus as seamless as possible."
Anyone who would like to comment on the project can do so at www.campusunificationproject.wordpress.com.