With most classes online and activities suspended, campus life is quieter than usual this fall at the University of Texas at San Antonio – unless you count the sounds of construction.
The site of four major building projects in various stages of completion, UTSA is filling out its main campus footprint in far northwest San Antonio even as the coronavirus pandemic has prevented most in-person learning.
As college students across the country move into dorms and settle in for a semester or more of mostly virtual learning, the staff and faculty at the 51-year-old institution are unpacking their own moving boxes and anticipating new spaces in which they will instruct, advise, research, and coach.
Student Success Center
One of the first to be recently completed is the Student Success Center, an academic advising complex that was ready for move-in the first week of September.
The $7.7 million project, which consolidates the university’s various offices focused on student retention, persistence, and graduation requirements, is a 30,000-square-foot building formed of modular units.
It is located near the center of campus between the North Paseo and McKinney Humanities buildings and provides office space for about 200 staffers.
“It was purposefully situated there for ease of access for students and is a piece of what we’re calling our academic success district,” said Tammy Wyatt, vice provost for student success at UTSA.
Designed by Chesney Morales Partners, the center is the first phase of a complete student success building that will be constructed over time, she said. “We’re really excited about the synergies and the opportunities that this will provide us.”
Science and Engineering Building
Small groups of students are already meeting with professors and working in the labs of UTSA’s new Science and Engineering Building, a structure with soaring ceilings and spaces filled with natural light, completed during the summer months.
In the planning phases since before 2016, the four-story, $97 million building houses biology and chemistry labs, chemical engineering classrooms and labs, UTSA’s Brain Health Consortium, along with collaborative learning spaces and a 17,000-square-foot engineering “Makerspace.”
The ground-floor Makerspace is a design studio and machine shop – a collaborative project space that did not exist on the UTSA campus before now, said JoAnn Browning, dean of the College of Engineering and interim dean for the College of Architecture, Construction, and Planning.
“There’s space for business and engineering students to work together,” Browning said. “And our external community partners will be invited in as well to be a part of that process as they’re mentoring our students to learn in more realistic settings for their designs and for developing their business plans.”
Also within the building is a two-story distillation column for use in the chemical engineering program, which is now in its fourth year. The column, painted in UTSA orange, is one of only three Browning said she knows of in U.S. universities and was funded through a gift from the Klesse Foundation.
“Our students are now just getting to the point where they need this lab to complete their degree,” Browning said. “This building allowed us to create the chemical engineering program.”
On the top floor are panoramic views of the city and restricted-access research labs for the study of brain health, which is conducted by researchers the university hired over the last few years, Browning said.
“This building created so many opportunities,” she said. “The opportunity for us to create a new program, to enable our students to have the types of facilities they deserve to finish their projects and interact with our community in entrepreneurial ways, and hire faculty and bring them into these cutting edge research spaces that … probably makes it hard for them to say ‘no’ to come to UTSA. It’s a real game changer for us.”
On the north side of the campus, construction crews are at work on a new four-story residence hall designed for incoming honors students. In addition to dormitory rooms built for two, a community kitchen, and laundry facilities, the building also offers multipurpose spaces for study groups and collaborative learning.
Guadalupe Hall will add 360 beds to a school that was once a commuter campus but currently has beds for 2,300 students. Though on-campus housing for this fall is only 45 percent occupied, it is usually about 97 percent full, said Wyatt, adding that as UTSA has grown, there’s been greater demand for on-campus housing.
Designed by Alamo Architects with TreanorHL, the $43.6 million Guadalupe Hall project is set to be ready for move-in for the fall semester in 2021. Whiting-Turner is the construction contractor.
“It’s perfectly designed for living and learning communities, which we know support success all around in particular for first-year students on campus,” Wyatt said.
Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence
Two athletics facilities are under construction at UTSA’s main campus.
The university broke ground in early March for the Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence, or RACE, a $41.5 million complex on 11 acres near the southwest corner of campus.
At nearly 94,000 square feet, RACE will include practice fields, locker rooms, a sports medicine center, and strength and conditioning facilities, as well as academic study spaces, staff and coach offices, and meeting rooms. RACE was designed by architecture firms Populous and MarmonMok.
The project is being funded by private donations and community partnerships – with over $13 million of the total raised as of March – and $10 million in funds from the 2017 City bond referendum. UTSA entered into a ground lease with the Roadrunner Foundation that will secure financing for the project. In return, UTSA Athletics will pay the foundation $1 million annually for up to 25 years, and upon completion of the financing terms, the foundation will donate RACE to the university.
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