This is an artist's rendering of what future Arts and Humanities building might look like; actual design is yet to be determined.
Arts and Humanities Building Receives Design Go-Ahead; Next Step Is New Parking Structure
The first piece in the Arts and Humanities building project was laid down in October when $2.8 million was included in the state budget to design the building. The new building, which will stand where Taylor Hall is now, will be home to the current occupants and will provide updated classrooms, offices, and art studios. The project includes a 200-seat multi-use theatre and a new recording studio.
Described as the “cornerstone” of the performance and visual arts quadrant by Vice President for Business and Finance Lori Hoffman, the new building depends on other key pieces to fall in place.
One of those pieces is a new parking structure that will be located on the corner of Normal Avenue and Second Street. The structure, which would provide at least 220 parking places in addition to the current 100 spaces, would also contain offices and up to 10 solar photovoltaic units for electric cars.
The parking structure is important to the entire arts and humanities southeast campus entrance in several critical ways. The two most compelling reasons are the pressure to provide more parking for visitors to the campus in this area, and the need to relocate the University Police Department. UPD is now housed in temporary buildings that will be torn down to make room for the new building.
One need for campus parking that is especially relevant to the areas near the Performing Arts Center and Laxson Auditorium, and eventually the new building, is that the University offers cultural and performing arts events to the region, often in the evening, and there is limited off-street parking. A significant proportion of these visitors are middle-aged and beyond. The new 200-seat theatre will further increase the need for accessible, safe, and convenient parking.
In the context of CSU, Chico’s entire parking capacity, the 220 new parking spaces would increase the total spaces on campus to 2,076 spaces, still a very low number given the 18,000 people on campus. That ratio is the lowest in the CSU system.
The second compelling reason, according to Hoffman, is the need to relocate UPD to a place that is central, visible, and most effective for providing security and service. The possibilities across campus have been carefully examined, and the consensus is that the logical and best choice is in the proposed new parking structure.
Part of the cost of that UPD office space, $1 million, is provided by funds for the arts and humanities building project, as the relocation is a piece of the puzzle that needs to be in place before laying the foundation for a new building.
How does building a new 320-space parking structure fit with the University’s commitment to sustainability? Hoffman said that the parking structure is part of a balanced plan to resolve transportation needs. Part of that plan is to mitigate the need for more parking by encouraging use of public transit and biking and providing alternatives to single occupancy vehicle travel. The campus’s Transportation Demand Management Plan has identified a set of recommendations that the campus is implementing to encourage alternative modes of transportation to the campus.
“Chico is a bike-friendly town due in large part to the topography,” said Hoffman. “However, there are very few safe bike lanes, especially to campus. We have been working with the city of Chico on First and Second Street bike lanes with plans for construction in summer 2011. Increasing safe paths of travel for bicyclists, increasing bike parking, and providing covered and secure bike parking on campus will all contribute to increased bike usage.”
One of the advantages of the parking structure is that much like all campus parking, the structure will be available to public use. This allows the city and University to partner to move on-street parallel parking into the parking structure and keep eight feet of the street for bike use with wider and safer sidewalks for pedestrians.
Hoffman said that the University will continue to add bike racks, lockers for bikes, safe pedestrian walkways, free public transit, and manage the number of freshmen who bring cars to campus. With the addition of Sutter Hall, there are more on-campus housing opportunities than ever before, which lessens the need for students to commute to campus.
Another transportation alternative is the Zipcar program launched in September 2009. The Institute for Sustainable Development partnered with Zipcar to launch Chico’s program as the second program on a CSU campus, with eight shared cars. It is estimated that each shared car takes 15–20 personally owned vehicles off the road.
The construction funding for this project has not been approved by the state. The Chancellor’s Office is planning to request State Lease-Revenue funding in the 2011–12 budget. If this is not approved, then the project would be delayed awaiting a General Obligation bond. The earliest a GO bond initiative would be presented to the voters is November 2012. If the State Lease-Revenue bonds are approved, the $59 million project could begin construction in early 2013 and be completed in late 2015.
People who love the decaying Greek columns mural on the east side of Taylor Hall have asked, “What will happen to the mural?” President Paul Zingg has said that saving the landmark John Pugh mural is a high priority. There is no guarantee that the removal process would be successful, of course, but efforts will be made to move the mural. A new mural could be painted somewhere else on campus and that would mean more fundraising, as there won’t be state money for the project, but something that many people would support. “The Greek columns mural is one of those timeless Chico touches,” said Editor David Little in a column in the Dec. 4 Chico Enterprise Record, “and we're glad the University agreed [to save it].”
—Kathleen McPartland, Public Affairs and Publications