September 6, 2008
Regents Approve U. Building Project
By Wendy Leonard Deseret News
PRICE -- Concerned neighbors surrounding the University of Utah campus have asked the Board of Regents to delay further planning on expansion projects they believe would have an extreme impact on the community.Land use, leasing options, proposed housing as well as traffic and parking are among issues that Salt Lake resident and area property owner Arla W. Funk has with the proposed Universe Project, a 7.9-acre development at the corner of 500 South and University Street adjacent Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I think it is appropriate that this development have considerably more scrutiny than most of the building that the university does," according to a letter Funk wrote that was shared today during the Regents' meeting at the College of Eastern Utah.
Additional community input and incorporation could help better merge citizens with the university plan and therefore "minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods," she wrote.
The Regents, however, approved progression on the U.'s master plan, which includes the Universe Project among other U. campus construction. The plan will move forward as scheduled, including ongoing discussions as individual and specific projects come up, said Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management at the U.
A letter from Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker commended the project for its efforts to integrate mass transit and pedestrian traffic into the available space but also related his concern for the "edges of campus, and particularly how these areas, and the new areas of development, will interface with the neighborhoods."
Becker said the city's objective is to engage the university in a continuing process to reach the best option for everyone involved.
Perez said the edges of campus will seamlessly conjoin with surrounding communities and the master plan will continue to work with citizen input "as it has done throughout the entire process of our plan."
A long list of community members signed a letter addressed to Perez that was shared with the Regents condoning the project as long as it doesn't cause the area to become too commercial or create financial problems for local businesses.
"Project Universe is an exceptional development, offering a place for students, Salt Lake residents, and commuters to enjoy a distinctive experience as they enter the University of Utah," the letter states. Furthermore, it states the project is an "opportunity to highlight what makes Utah, Salt Lake City and the University of Utah a distinct and special place -- our small, locally-owned and community-oriented businesses."
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