In order to meet the parking needs that will be created by the construction of the new chemistry and biology building in 2015, university officials have presented a new parking solution after purchasing nearby land.
The new state-of-the art building will occupy Lot X, displacing many parking spaces with its construction. In order to arrive at a solution to this issue, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point officials consulted students, faculty, staff, neighbors, city officials and engineers.
Some of the options presented included creating a parking structure as well as reducing the number of student vehicles.
However, UWSP has come to a new solution. Since the meetings began, the university has purchased one parcel of land, not previously available, that is adjacent to campus. The land completes a full section of a block on Portage Street that will create a parking lot with about 85 new spaces.
In addition to this purchase, the university has secured the option to purchase another parcel of land adjacent to Lot T on Fourth Avenue, providing additional access and 25 more spaces.
UWSP will replace the metered parking from Lot X to Lot Y and a portion of Lot T. Permitted parking may also be relocated to Lot Q.
This option is seen as more practical and cost-efficient.
“This is a new opportunity that allowed to the campus to consider another option with a lower cost and less short-term disruption,” said Carl Rasmussen, director of facility planning. “The potential of purchasing either of these parcels was thought to be unlikely near term during the investigation of the parking garage.”
UWSP sought out the parcels of land to use for this project, but it has been stated that no homes are being lost.
“Three of the houses to be razed were already owned by the university for a number of years and were leased to students,” Rasmussen said. “The students’ leases expire at the end of the spring semester. The student tenants were both graduating and leaving the area or given the opportunity to lease other campus-managed houses or seek other rental housing on their own. The house that was just purchased was vacant at the time.”
This change of plans came as a bit of a surprise because the parking structure passed both Student and Faculty Senate. Support was given to construct a garage on Lot T.
Rasmussen said that the decision-making process took into consideration costs and phasing of construction, how construction debt is paid off, how replacement of short-term meter parking lost in Lot X for commuters and visitors would be met and the impact of losing additional parking in Lot T during the time a garage would be constructed.
Of all the factors considered, cost was taken into consideration most heavily. Although a parking structure will likely be necessary in the coming five to seven years, UWSP was able to postpone that decision with the purchase of this land.
“The cost differential is the driving factor,” said Greg Diemer, vice chancellor for business affairs. “Students, faculty and staff did not like the significant increase that would have been necessary to construct a parking structure. The delay will give the campus the opportunity to more gradually increase rates and build a reserve which will reduce the debt service cost.”
Had the construction of a parking structure began, parking permit rates would have risen dramatically.
“Students, faculty and staff will avoid the immediate impact of parking permit rates increasing by up to $184 per year to pay off the debt of a parking garage,” Rasmussen said.
By putting this plan into action, the increase in permit rates will be much more gradual.
In the near future, UWSP will be considering a proposal to raise parking rates to $125 a year in order to cover both ongoing and immediate costs while setting aside funds to offset the large investment the future parking structure will require.
Convenience is also being considered with this project.
“If day-commuter permit parking is implemented as recommended in the southwest corner of Lot Q, those students will have a much shorter distance to travel to the academic center of campus than they do now,” Rasmussen said.
The city of Stevens Point is completely on board with this new project.
“I think that this decision makes great use of the university’s available resources,” said Mayor Andrew Halverson. “This is a common sense approach that is comprehensive for both the campus and community.”
This decision was made in close proximity to the approval of the new Health and Wellness Facilities project, but it is a misconception that the two projects are related.
“The parking option plan has been under discussion since fall semester,” Diemer said. “It is just coincidence that it was announced after the referendum passed and has nothing to do with the new Student Recreation and Health Center.”