Plan for Science Building Passes Plan Commission; Parking Biggest Concern
By Brandi Makuski
City Plan commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a new science building planned for the UWSP campus.
The 167,000 square foot chemistry and biology building is planning for the current location of Lot X between Fourth Ave. and Fremont St. and will include four floors of labs, two 100-seat lecture halls, twelve 55-seat classrooms and a conservatory. The city saw a detailed presentation on the project in January.
But the new building, which was approved by the State Building Commission last year, is chewing up the 342 parking spaces from Lot X. Carl Rasmussen, director of facilities planning for UWSP, said the university has already begun to make up for the loss with changes and additions to existing nearby lots.
“And we’ve also got the new lot, which will have metered parking and alleviate at least some of the parking lost to the build,” Rasmussen said of a new 75- space surface lot planned for a space next to the city’s fire station.
Michael Ostrowski, director of community development for the city, called parking problems “the biggest concern we’ve heard” regarding the university area.
He also said an in-depth parking study is underway for areas surrounding the university, Ministry Medical and parts of the downtown area. That study, he said, would give city leaders a better idea of how to improve the situation, but he already sees too glaring problems.
“One, we have a ton of free parking,” Ostrowski said. “That means a lot of people are bringing their cars and they don’t have to pay to park. Two, we have limited housing opportunities.”
Students are living outside of the city in increasing numbers, he said, because of a lack of student housing close to campus. That means more students are driving to campus from the Village of Plover and other nearby communities.
“But I think the key is, reducing the number of vehicles brought to campus, not building more surface lots,” he added.
Some of the changes, he said, include shifting some parking regulations to restrict long-term parking, as well as additional metered parking and satellite lots, sometimes called “park and ride” lots.
“We are looking at park and ride and satellite lot options,” Ostrowski said. “But we’re also looking at possibly constructing a parking lot out by the airport, which would allow them [students] to park there, and then bus them into campus.”
Ostrowski said the city would know better how to proceed sometime this summer, as the parking study would be complete in June or July.