The University of Wyoming’s initial plan for the location of new dormitories calls for a green space to replace the parking lot east of the Wyoming Union.
Wyoming House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, playfully dubbed the green space as “Prexy’s Pasture Jr.” during the first meeting of a revamped UW Housing Task Force hosted last week in Laramie.
“Obviously, the eastern sun’s going to come splash into that area, and that’s going to be really neat,” Harshman said.
However, Matt Kibbon, UW’s director of facilities construction management, noted the designs are solely for the purpose of showing mass and scale of how 2,000 beds are going to fit on that property.
“It’s not the final plan,” Kibbon said.
UW’s initial plans suggest building three dorms, each housing between 350 and 400 students, between the Wyoming Union parking lot and Lewis Street along the west side of 15th Street.
The plans also suggest two more dorms, also housing upwards of 400 students, to be placed on the north side of Lewis Street, between 13th and 15th streets.
UW doesn’t own all the properties between 13th and 14th streets, but a request for qualifications issued May 3 states “there is, however, potential for these properties to be acquired.”
The designs are also suggesting a final dorm building, housing no more than 150 students, on the site of the parking lot west of the Cooper House.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, who co-chairs the task force, expressed concern about having almost all dorms concentrated in one area.
“When you get residence halls of that size that close together, it really does become the dominant mass of the campus, which is what we’re trying to avoid right now,” he said. “We’re trying to get away from these vast towers of our current dorm structure. … I think we need to be very sensitive to not repeat the sins of the past and over-massing that area.”
In total, the planned construction would remove lots that have about 600 parking spots. However, the 2019 law that allows for the construction requires the project to create a net increase of parking.
To accommodate that, university leaders are looking to place a parking garage on the current site of the UW Police building.
The initial “massing study” produced by UW staff suggests a four-story garage with space for 600-700 vehicles.
Trustee John McKinley said the parking lot south of Old Main is also a potential spot “for multi-level parking as well.”
At last week’s meeting, task force members disagreed on whether there should still be some vehicular access to run adjacent to the Union and the Half Acre Gymnasium.
Matt Newman, a professor of practice and architect at UW, suggested to task force members that the bus stop at the Union be retained.
A loading dock at the Union and needs at the gym are also valuable reasons to retain limited vehicular access, Newman said.
“They rent a lot of equipment (at the gym) and there’s a lot of traffic there for just dropping off and picking up equipment,” Newman said. “I thought (access) was almost a necessity simply because of the functions that are taking place along that corridor.”
While Rothfuss said students would “go nuts” at Harshman’s idea, the House Speaker suggested that the main bus drop-off should be at the parking garage north of Bradley Street. Bus routes along the Union should be eliminated, he said.
“I think that ought to be a beautiful pedestrian space, with delivery and maybe emergency access, but I think to be running buses through there all day long — I think we ought to talk about that,” Harshman said.