Gateway Plaza construction begins in place of parking lot

Justin Ware

Monday marked the beginning of construction on the Gateway Alumni Center outdoor plaza and the end of a University parking option.

Situated on the corner of Washington Avenue Southeast and Oak Street, the plaza will provide the alumni center and University faculty, staff and students with an outdoor commons area.

Donations to the Alumni Association funded the $3 million project.

“I think it’s kind of (bad),” said Angie Kotrba, a University sophomore. She said she disliked the removal of the parking lot to accommodate the new plaza.

Many people who work in the University and medical buildings needed the parking and now must pay and walk a longer distance, she said.

But the Alumni Association stressed the project’s community benefits.

The plaza will “provide a wonderful common area for students to come together,” said Jim Heinz, alumni center building manager.

Heinz noted the plaza would provide opportunities for outdoor events and concerts.

Plans are in place for the construction of a stage – accommodating between 500 and 5,000 people – on the south side of the alumni center.

Tom LaSalle, owner representative to the Gateway Plaza project, stressed the plaza’s flexibility in meeting student needs.

Trees lining the plaza’s perimeter will add tranquility and keep unwanted noise from disturbing academics, LaSalle said.

Originally slated for completion in late spring 2002, the plaza will most likely not be complete until later that summer.

Heinz noted that construction would have begun about a month ago had it not been for poor weather conditions last spring.

The current construction is in the first phase of completion.

LaSalle indicated one possible addition to the plaza might be two large towers serving as a University welcome beacon. Regents have not yet approved plans for the towers.

Justin Ware covers construction and
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