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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Possible Sites Unveiled for New Garage

Discussions are underway for the planning of a new garage on the UMass Boston campus. With a budget of $39.7 million dollars, administration, students, and staff have begun communications to assess the short and long-term tradeoffs of three prospective sites to house the new structure. The site locations, in the rear of the Quinn Administration Building, the Clark Athletic Center parking area, and the pump house between North Lot and the JFK Library, consist themselves of varied sub-sites. “We looked at a whole bunch of sites and bit by bit went through them,” said Stephan Chait, assistant vice chancellor of administration and finance, and the man behind the new Campus Center. “The bottom line of the discussion came down to, is there a better and higher use for these sites? Some of the sites were very prime and premium site.”

A seven-person steering committee made up of administrators and staff, along with students, faculty, and design team consultants assessed 11 sites for the proposed garage.

Students from the student Senate, the Graduate Student Assembly, and the Beacon Leadership Project were among those involved. Based on proximity, the possibility of other uses of the site, long-term plans for the university structure, cost implications, and access, the 11 sites were whittled down to three.

“We got it down to three sites that we now want to take out to the university community and talk about [it] and get opinions,” says Chait. According to Chait, this feedback will be assembled and sent to the chancellor and his executive staff, who will make the final decision. “We’re trying to collect information about what people think that contributes to the decision making process,” Chait explains.

Chait cites one of the challenges in determining the viability of each site is the fact that the university lacks a master plan. In the long-term, the question is raised of the need to locate the garage in a way that minimizes the cost for future opportunities, he said.

Talks surrounding the proposed building concentrate on location, size, and how the new facility relates to the existing garage facility. “If we built a garage that had fifteen to sixteen hundred spaces in it we could empty out all the cars, not put any thing back and say ‘let’s fix it-all,'” Chait says. “We could build half that many [spaces]… move every thing out and then work on half of them.” He adds that the matter is further complicated with the option of building a smaller garage and using the excess funds to help facilitate repair in the existing upper and lower levels.

Taking that into account, the university was provided with three templates regarding the garage’s size, 700 to 800, 1000, or 1500 spaces. The current UMB parking facilities hold 2226 usable spaces, according to Patrick Mulligan, director of parking and transportation.

Those spaces that are not usable are the result of years without maintenance. “Just by walking in the garage you can see the problems,” Mulligan says. “They’re very evident. Basically by virtue of neglect by the university, years of not having a regular maintenance schedule.”

Mulligan explains that water has migrated into the facilities, forming potholes. As a result, jacks, suring, and steel plates have been constructed to provide the structure with added support. “Obviously, it’s an ongoing battle to try to maintain the current facility we have, but the best solution at hand is to construct a new facility and repair our current facility,” he says. A working figure of $42.2 million has been allotted for such repairs.

The majority of the motivation behind building a new structure lies in providing “swing space” for the university traffic flow, while making the repairs that are necessary on the upper and lower levels of the existing garage. “As a commuter campus we need to maintain a certain amount of parking to maintain our operation,” said Chait. “The real idea behind this is build some new parking, empty out cars from the existing structure, and start repairing the structure.”

Chait adds that, to a lesser extent, the possible changes on the UMB campus could also benefit from this structure. There is a concern that if at some point the university goes through with residential housing, or with other initiatives that may increase enrollment, additional parking may be needed.

As plans for the project are in the early stages, there is no deadline for site selection or construction. Chait imagines the new garage will have some impact on the parking fee, but could not predict what its effect will be at this time.