09:38 AM

February Update on the Welcome Center/Garage Construction Project

A letter to the UHD community from David Bradley, Administration and Finance.

I am pleased to report that after months of delay, work on the Welcome Center/Girard 3/Garage project will soon commence. I am also disappointed to have to report that due to significant challenges with the project budget, the University will not be getting everything out of this project that had been hoped.

A combination of flawed pre-project estimating and surging prices for materials and labor in the construction sector have put us in a position where we must accept less than we'd anticipated even as we pay more than we'd planned. Specifically, instead of getting a Welcome Center, built-out Girard 3 space, and a four-level parking garage for $16.5 million we will have a Welcome Center, shelled-out Girard 3 space, and a three-level parking garage, at a cost of $19 million.

This morning, a presentation was made to the President's Executive Council outlining just what these changes will mean. Understandably, there was considerable interest in the parking component. In the coming weeks, this full presentation will be made to various constituency groups on campus, but today I would like to share a few key slides. The slide that will be of most interest is Slide #3, which shows the number of faculty/staff spaces we now expect to have when this garage comes on line in Spring 2015. As you will note, the number is less than what we had in Fall 2011 - which represents the situation as it existed for many years - and considerably less than we enjoyed during the three semesters that spanned Spring 2012 through Spring 2013. During that period we had the benefit of the two additional levels of parking beneath the Academic Building, along with the aging One Main Building Faculty/Staff Garage.

While this is certainly unwelcome news to all, I honestly believe that things are not as bad as they appear. Our experience in providing replacement parking for the demolished One Main Building Garage suggests that faculty/staff demand can largely be met by the reduced garage, and by continuing with better utilization of the Naylor Street Garage (beneath the Shea Street Building).

As decisions about these scope changes were made, the discussion continued to come back to what made the most sense for the long-term. UHD is a young institution but as Dr. Flores frequently points out, we are at a critical point in our development. Much work has been done over the past two to three years in the area of campus master planning, and the findings of that work were clear - if the University is to fulfill its potential in the years ahead, additional property will be required. Talks are ongoing with other area landowners and we are cautiously optimistic that those discussions will bear fruit in the near future. That possibility weighed heavily as we considered how much of our scarce resources to put towards this current project.

The last slide of the attachment shows a diagram taken from the final report prepared for us by the UH College of Architecture's designLAB group, after receiving input from UHD's broadly representative Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee. It is an ambitious vision, but hopefully most will agree that keeping open this possibility is worth the cost in short-term inconvenience.

In concluding, I would like to make one final point. Whatever inconvenience comes from this development will be evenly distributed. While we'd hoped we'd be able to go back to an open-concept garage, it is now more likely that lotteries will continue. The UHD Parking & Transportation Committee will begin taking this up in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we've worked to get this project back on track.