By Mary K. Schaffer May 2, 2012
The Belo Center for New Media, which opens Nov. 1, 2012, will disrupt parking and traffic in the immediate areas, according to Jeri Baker, assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services.
Belo stands on the northeastern corner of Guadalupe Street and Dean Keeton, near the Duren and Kinsolving dormitories. The new building is an extension of the College of Communication and will house the Journalism and Advertising and Public Relations programs, as well as KUT radio.
Belo was built on a parking lot of 150 parking spaces previously used by students and faculty. The new building will only provide “very limited parking,” according to the College of Communication media contact Nick Hundley. Hundley also said that while the area is the western gateway to the campus, the College of Communication is prepared for more traffic.
“There already is a lot of traffic in that area because of the dormitories, and most of the people that will use Belo are already parking or walking around the Communication Complex, but there will be more pedestrian traffic making its way to the building,” Hundley said.
To compensate for the lost 150 parking spaces, Baker said that PTS has implemented expansion projects of parking garages across campus, namely the San Antonio Garage at the corner of San Antonio Street and West 17th Street, which opened two new floors.
“We really needed to capture those lost parking spaces,” Baker said. “There were initial concerns of how we would deal with the high parking demand of the area around Belo, so the opening of the new floors of the San Antonio Garage came in perfect timing to accommodate those folks who lost their parking.”
Despite the new spaces, Baker also said that parking immediately around Belo will be more difficult because of the loss of spaces. There are a few more spaces under the CMA and CMB buildings in the Communication Complex, but those are already used everyday. To accommodate new traffic around the Belo building for those without University parking permits, people will have to use either the San Antonio Garage, the limited parking around the Communication Complex or the free parking along 27th Street, Baker said.
“It will definitely be more difficult,” Baker said. “Most of the same people that use the Communication Complex now will use the Belo building, but there will be more new traffic to the area as well.”
Duren and Kinsolving residents will also have to find more parking to make room for new traffic to the Belo building, such as along 27th Street or in the C Lot across from Interstate Highway 35, which is one of the cheapest parking lots on campus.
“Students used those 150 spaces to park while they studied in the evenings, visited friends on campus or went to Duren, Kinsolving or Whitis. Now they have to find somewhere else to park, such as in the San Antonio Garage,” Baker said.
The Belo building might even affect parking costs on campus, Baker said. Because PTS is self-funded, meaning it does not receive funds from the state or the University, they have to charge for parking.
“We had to make plans to accommodate the loss of parking without losing revenue,” Baker said. “That’s why we opened spaces in San Antonio Garage. But we expect everyone who uses our services to pay for them.”
Erica Darce, a Kinsolving resident from the College of Communication, usually parks along 27th Street, but she is worried about the increased traffic in her area of campus.
“I just hope I can find parking in the evening when I get off work,” Darce said. “Right now it’s hard to find a usual spot because there are so many people vying for spaces, but I can’t even imagine what it will be like now that there’s a new building right next door.”
Hundley said the elimination of the parking spots was a necessity for the College of Communication to grow and move forward in the media industry.
“We needed the space,” Hundley said. “The Communication Complex was built in 1974 when there were 1000 undergraduates, but now we have 4000 undergraduates. We have to accommodate our growth as a school.”
The Belo Center will also provide more space for attendees of the several communications conferences that the college hosts throughout the year.
“We usually have to hold our conferences at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center or in the LBJ Auditorium, so the Belo Center will speak to that need as well because it will have a 300-seat auditorium as well as several conference rooms.”
Journalism freshman Chin Lin Pan, who is also a resident of the Kinsolving dormitory, is worried about the increased pedestrian traffic toward the Belo building.
“I walk that way everyday, like many other students, but I’m specifically worried about how many students will be crossing the street,” Pan said. “Two whole programs, the Journalism and Advertising and Public Relations programs, will have to cross the street now, whereas they could just stay in the Communication Complex before.”
More students than just those in the Journalism and Advertising and Public Relations programs will have to cross the street, however. Communication students wishing to access the Dean’s office, Communication and Career Services and Communication Council will also have to cross.
“Busses will have to be more careful,” Pan said.