Community Forum | October 2021

Recap of the October 28, 2021, Community Forum

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The agenda for this meeting focused on providing status updates for the various design and construction projects currently underway on the University of Utah campus. Robin Burr, chief facilities officer for the University of Utah, provided details for 22 projects and answered questions that were submitted from the event registration page. The PowerPoint presentation as available for download here.

The meeting was recorded and the unedited video can be viewed in its entirety below. The majority of the information was covered and the section following the video lists the slide number, the title, and the timestamp when each slide is covered to aid with quickly identifying projects at a glance.

Watch the full meeting below.

Featured presentation by Chief Facilities Officer Robin Burr

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Q: Is phase 1 the restoration of the building?

A: We are working on both the existing building and the addition together.

Q: Is the Fletcher Building named for U president James Fletcher?

A: Yes.

A: The university is not directly involved, even though they have been approached by the developer.

Q: How will access to other health sciences offices and classrooms be maintained during the construction of the building? Is it true that the College of Nursing employees will lose access to their parking on the terrace and in the garage?

A: They will lose access to their parking on the Terrace temporarily, but we will put back some parking to make up for it. We will be moving the entry to the parking under the building. I don’t know the timing; we can follow up to figure that out.

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Q: With the addition of the 430 beds, how many beds total will be housed in Kahlert Village?

A: 1422 beds.

Q: What is the growth cap for our students?

A: I don’t know.

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A: There is a neighbor in our community who is doing a major renovation of their house in that area, in part related to an accident a few years ago. They came to us and asked permission for temporary use of some space for a truck turnaround, and for material staging. They can use it for 18 months and no more.

Q: While all the plans are impressive, how are you going to maintain heat, AC, clean air, repair, and support these changes for another 50 years given climate change and move to zero fossil fuels? Aren’t we overextending in maintenance budget and space given the pandemic has taught us that many would prefer not to come to campus?

A: Let’s take the climate question first. We are required to comply with the state’s high-performance building standard, which addresses energy use, etc. In addition to that, we require all university buildings to be a minimum of LEEDs Silver certified. Additionally, in the last five years, we have instigated a self-imposed rule that we refer to as “No New Emissions,” which means that every new building that we build is powered by electricity, not gas. We are moving to an all-electric campus. We have a contract to buy geothermal power sourced from the Nevada desert, which is where 50% of our power comes from. We are also in the process of purchasing solar power from Utah.

Secondly, we continue to grow here, even through the pandemic. Enrollment is up, we have the largest freshman class in our history. We have learned that students actually want to be on campus. We had to decline on-campus housing to 1200 students last year who wanted it. Students want to be part of the community. There are still many people who want to or have to be on campus to learn or do their jobs. The benefit of staff working from home is preventing a parking problem.

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Q: Once the new West Village buildings are finished and ready for residents, will the teardown of other buildings accelerate?

A: I wouldn’t say it will accelerate. We are planning a phased closure of older buildings, attempting to slow the displacement of current students living there. There is an average stay of two years in family and graduate housing. We will likely be closing some buildings each year for the next eight to10 years, but we do plan on taking it pretty slow in the West Village, so that we’re not displacing numerous families at once.

Q: (Likely in relation to USA housing) Will this project be multigenerational, serving from preschoolers to seniors and retirees?

A: Right now, we have pretty diverse demographic that live in the graduate and family housing, and we don’t intend for that to change much, because it’s likely our eligibility requirements for living there will be the same as they are now. You will still be required to have some affiliation with the university as a student or postdoctoral candidate, and different types of students get different priority on the waiting list, which is quite long. It is very likely that we will be serving young student families that have young children, similar to what we do now, and some that have children in grade school, middle school, and high school. We also have some non-traditional students doing undergraduate and graduate work later in life.

Q: Will the work on Sunnyside include new sewer and water lines with the lane closures? Is that happening right now, or is that happening after the cabling you mentioned?

A: The initial work has only to do with fiber cabling. It is not related to the West Village project at all.

Q: Where will the westbound traffic on Sunnyside be redirected?

A: The work will only be done between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with the goal of missing rush hour traffic, but I believe, even with the lane closure, there will still be a way to go down the hill, in the other lane. The far north lane is what will be impacted, and will be open during rush hour.

The following questions were submitted in advance but not covered in the presentation.

Burr: There are no plans in the works that I am aware of.

Q: What is the university strategy to reduce commuter single occupancy vehicles? How are we ensuring the U is thinking about traffic issues before we promote growth?

A: We are committed to our partnership with UTA, specifically to reduce single occupancy vehicles. That partnership suffered during COVID, but we are seeing a significant increase in ridership since the fall semester started. We also do not have as much of a parking problem as anticipated because there are fewer vehicles coming to campus. Having more housing on campus has helped that, as has having more people work from home. We also have options for tele-commuters so that they do not have to buy a full year parking pass that they then may feel they have to use. In summary, we are trying to maintain a balanced effort to tackle that issue.

We have also been working with UDOT and UTA and the VA on concepts for building mobility and transit hubs on campus that would improve ease of use for public transit, similarly to what has been done at the Union in recent years.

Q: Have you thought about addressing the thousands of cars that invade the Yalecrest neighborhood on football gamedays? (providing parking for these cars on the U campus)

A: We continue to address that, which goes back to the UTA partnership. Our ridership on a gamedays is 25-30% of the stadium, which is 15,000-20,000 riders per football game, and on weekday games we see an even larger increase in ridership. It gets more difficult on weekdays, but we are also working to make as many parking stalls available on campus during gamedays as possible. One of the issues that does arise is that most of the parking on campus, especially near the stadium on the south side, is Crimson Club parking, and then there’s paid parking on the north side of campus, so, many migrate down toward Yalecrest area.

Q: What are the plans to handle transportation access from the southeast parts of the valley to campus?

A: Well, I would start by saying that by building 1200 more beds on campus, we take 1200 cars off the road. As we transition from a traditionally commuter campus, to a campus living learning community, we hope that will take cars off of the road.

Q: Is there any more information to share about the mobility hubs that we’ve been talking about?

A: That should be put on the agenda for our next meeting to be shown in a formal presentation.

A: Zoning change was approved to allow for construction, but we are unsure about when construction will begin. The master plan showed 4 buildings totaling 536 beds, all micro apartments, and we think the buildings are intended to be built over time, and dedicated to university housing. The university is not involved in the design and construction of this project.

A: No, not at this time.

A: I don’t know. I know we have a Utilities and Energy Department and Facilities, and they work with Salt Lake City Public Works every day. I am unaware of contaminated wells, or if they have polluted our wells, but we don’t use them for culinary water, we do some of our irrigation with them. We do conduct water testing.