Ramp demolition begins soon

by Robin Huiras

The long-awaited and much debated demolition of the East River Road Ramp begins Oct. 15.
The ramp, the subject of much contention when University officials declared it hazardous in 1993, will permanently close Wednesday evening, Sept. 30.
The Master Plan for the Twin Cities campus called for the demolition of the ramp. Although originally approved by the Board of Regents in September 1996, University administrators officially informed the Board of the demolition date at the Sept. 11, 1998 meeting, said Katie De Boer, board coordinator.
Deferring the demolition to accommodate overflow parking and to coincide with Coffman Union renovation in 1997, the razing could no longer be postponed.
Built in 1966, the ramp is the oldest above-ground parking structure on campus. Concrete erosion caused by the repair of other infrastructrural problems has cost the University $250,000 over the last five years.
“The ramp is falling apart and needed to come down,” said Dan Wackman, a contract parking space holder. “It is too bad the University can’t open it up more to face the river.”
University representatives are working together on a schematic design for the entire south Mall. A new garage, the University housing initiative, Coffman Union renovations and other academic buildings are all considerations for the south Mall design, said Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services.
“The University needs to examine what options we have to utilize the space and how to fit University needs into the context of the Master Plan,” said University construction executive Pam Beader.
A goal of the Master Plan is a south Mall design, which flows from Northrop Auditorium to the River, Beader said.
The creation of a new parking garage is part of the design.
Tentatively scheduled to open in December 2000, construction of the new garage will immediately follow the expected February 1999 demolition. Of the 1,200 spaces in the new edifice, 800 will be contracted while the remaining 400 will be open to daily public parking.
“University employees need parking space,” said contract parking space holder Jan Minette. “The new garage won’t have as much space.”
The interlude during which less parking will be available presents many problems to students commuting to campus and University visitors.
“Contract customers will be relocated to other ramps,” said Baker. University employees working south of Washington Avenue will be relegated to the Oak Street Ramp; those north of Washington will go to the Fourth Street Ramp.
Donald Adderly, who works in the Boynton Health Service building and sublets a contract space, said the relocation is not as convenient, but the old ramp is an eyesore.
Parking for students and visitors is available in the newly developed Buckeye lot, located behind the Huron Boulevard lots. Hourly parking is available in the Weisman Museum Garage. Night school students will be accommodated by expanded hours in the Weisman garage, Baker said.