State gives UTC approval to build $80 million dorm

State gives UTC approval to build $80 million dorm

May 19th, 2015 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Alison Storie takes some volley practice Monday on the tennis courts east of the The Racquet Center, top center, at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Houston Street. The indoor courts may be torn down to make way for a new $80 million housing and garage structure following approval by Tennessee's State Building Commission.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE -- All systems are go for an $80 million UTC project that includes a new 600-bed student residence hall, dining halls and a 700-vehicle garage.

With the money now in place through campus and State School Bond Authority funds, State Building Commission members last week gave full approval for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to proceed with the ambitious west campus project.

"They have full funding and now they can go forward with the project as a whole," said state architect Peter Heimbach on Monday.

The project includes student dining facilities for the traditional-style dormitory. All will go on a site near Douglas and East Fifth streets. The site is now occupied by UTC's nearly 40-year-old Racquet Center and adjacent tennis courts.

The Racquet Center will be demolished and the tennis courts relocated to the Engel Stadium complex. That's included in the cost.

Efforts to reach Chuck Cantrell, UTC's associate vice chancellor of communication and marketing, were unsuccessful Monday.

But Cantrell said in an interview last year after State Building Commission members' initial approval of the $59 million dorm that the project was born in UTC's chronic housing shortages.

"We've had a long need for student housing," Cantrell said, citing continued enrollment growth from out-of-area students at the university, located near downtown Chattanooga.

During that same interview, Cantrell said officials hope to have the project completed in 2017.

The traditional residence hall is a departure from a several-decade trend of apartment-style living on campus. The Student Government Association was supportive of the move toward a more structured environment for freshmen students. UTC requires first-year, out-of-area students to live on campus.

"The focus for this housing will be for freshmen and creating learning communities that will help engage students on the campus and help make them successful," Cantrell said in the 2014 interview.

The university would eventually like to acquire land along Vine Street for more housing that would also better connect the campus to downtown Chattanooga. Cantrell noted officials "believe this would help animate the corridor and spur business development."

When the project came before State Building Commission members last year, it included only the $59 million dorm because full funding was not yet in place, Heimbach said. But all along the architect said it was intended to be an $80 million project. Last summer, Building Commission members approved Derthick Henley Wilkerson as architects.

In November, they awarded the contract to Hoar Construction as contractor and general manager. And in February, Building Commission members revised the scope and project funding to include the garage.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.


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