Tech addresses parking lot construction plan

Parking at Tech is expected to grow by 550 spots by Fall 2011. These new spots will occupy land on the east side of campus in the area around Prescott Central Middle School.The Tennessee Technological University Foundation- a non-profit corporation with the purpose of providing guidance and assistance for the program of private gift support for Tech-purchased PCMS, along with the 14 acres of surrounding land, for roughly $2.6 million last fall. The University plans to purchase roughly 11 acres of this land to convert into the new parking lots.

“Our parking isn’t as bad as a lot of places, but this new property will really make it better,” President Bob Bell said. “It should also take the pressure off of parking in the center of campus, which is really strained right now.”

The Putnam County Schools system still occupies the property-and rents it from the TTU Foundation-while it finishes construction on the new PCMS building, located where South Jefferson meets Highway 111. The PCS system will vacate at its earliest convenience.

“They haven’t set a date yet, and when we purchased it from them-this was a government purchase that happened fairly quickly” Bell said. “I assured the County School Board that the building was theirs until they occupied the new PCMS building.”

Glenn Binkley, assistant director of Facilities and Business Services, says that the county will probably move PCMS over to its new location early next spring.

Since the spring weather will probably be inclement, it may be summer before they can begin developing the property into parking lots. Binkley estimates that the University will finish this project by next fall.

“This fall and next spring will be a tough time for us on campus,” Binkley said. “The residence hall phase two will open up without any additional parking. That hurts; but if we can make it through that year, we will really be helping by opening up this additional parking. It is extremely congested on the east side of campus, so this should be an improvement Fall 2011.”

Binkley said the estimated cost of developing the PCMS property into parking is also $1 million since there are several things that must be done to complete it: cap paving, erosion control, some grading, the replacement of old base rock and lighting, just to name a few.

The topography of the land has also proven tricky for the University and the developers.

“The Upland Design Group, our regional architectural engineering firm, estimated that because of the way the land is tiered behind Prescott-similar to stair steps-it would take a lot of money to grade it,” Binkley said. “This means we will probably develop it into three small lots of differing heights, which unfortunately reduces the number of possible parking slots.”

Since the property is some distance from campus, the University plans to make it as convenient as possible for student utilization.

“The nearly 12 acres of parking that we will open up will be a big step forward for us,” Bell said. “At the current time we will be putting a shuttle service into that so that students will be picked up there in the parking lot and brought either over to the University Center or they can connect with the CATS bus that is running around campus.”

There will also be several of the blue emergency phones scattered around the PCMS property, as well as multiple lighting sources to help students feel safer in the remote location. President Bell also speculated that there may be a dining service, similar to Outtakes, in the building once it is renovated.

The parking lots, however, are not the only project on the University’s agenda for the PCMS property. It will be working in cooperation with the TTU Foundation to renovate and update the school’s building as well.

“Most of the costs of the purchase will be used for updating and renovating the Prescott building,” Bell said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and the Facilities and Business Services office on campus will be mainly busy with that.

“Again, the Foundation will own the building so anything that will be done will be in cooperation with them. But their main mission is to support the University, so they are certainly going to do good things over there.”

The University hopes to preserve the history of the building-which has been around since the 1930s-while implementing it as office and surge space.

Surge space offers flexible space in the event that another building on campus becomes unusable due to things like immediate renovations or fires. Classes from this building would be able to resume the next day in the designated surge space.

Several offices on campus, like University Advancement and Alumni Relations, will move over to the PCMS building. The TTU Foundation will have office space there as well.

“I would think that the 2011 year is when we will really ramp up the playing field for this new property,” Bell said.