By Lexi Delarosa
Classes, studying, social lives, part-time jobs, internships, and overall mental health are things students plan for when arriving to college, however outliers such as construction tend to not be factored in. Students at Texas State have had to conquer the construction that disrupts traffic and parking, but now some students are facing this interference in their own dorms.
Residents of Smith Dorm Hall were notified of the plan for construction the week prior to spring break, and the construction zone was blocked off on Monday, March 14. The remainder of the north parking lot on Russell Circle around the dorm will be added to the construction zone and closed off to the public starting Monday, May 23.
“It’s kind of already hard to park right now, as it is,” sophomore residential assistant Cristian Flores-Sargent said. “It’s going to be way harder to park once they close off that side.”
Major construction has not begun, however the east area surrounding the hall has been closed off to begin the excavation phase of construction. The project that will be taking place by Smith Hall is for a new residential area titled “Hilltop Housing Complex.”
“So, the plan is that starting in the spring of ’24, when we do our housing application process, Hilltop will show up as an option,” Executive Director of Housing and Residential Life Bill Mattera said. “We also notify students if something’s happening, so if there’s going to be something that needs to happen at 6 a.m., we’ll notify students ahead of time.”
The Department of Housing and Residential Life works with the contractors to limit noisy construction to daytime hours, according to Mattera. However, residents of Smith Hall are more concerned with how the closure zone will affect parking.
“Parking on campus is really limited for people living in dorms because passes and tickets are both really expensive, and with 40,000 other students, almost everywhere is always full,” sophomore resident of Smith’s neighboring hall, Arnold Hall, DJ Bartly said. “When I go to the theatre building, I always end up parking on city streets, but I have to get there 30 minutes early just to get a spot.”
Texas State Parking Services is solely funded through the revenue made from parking passes, citations, and Pay-to-Park Garages. No student tuition, fees, or tax dollars are put towards their operations, according to the Parking Services website.
“They (construction) take up the parking spots, residents can’t find their parking, people have to go all the way to the garage to park, and sometimes the garage gets full so they can’t even park there,” Flores-Sargent said. “From what I’ve heard, from some people, it gets so hard to park that they miss classes because of it.”
HDRL is working in a responsive way to help minimize the impact this project will have on students. Between parking and noise, HDRL has plans in place to help students stay notified and also work with individual concerns.
“A big part of that for us is figuring out what actually the impact is going to be once this lot is closed, now we’re going to adjust and respond to that impact,” Mattera said. “It’s this fine balance of figuring out how to exactly build something in the middle of an active campus while also taking care of students.”
The complex is planned to be completed in July 2024 and in full occupancy for the Fall 2024 semester. According to Mattera, even though Smith Hall is going to be affected by the project, the dorm will still be in use due to the rising number of students living on campus.
“We need those badly, we need those spaces to house students; were building this because we’re short beds, so closing spaces aren’t an option for us,” Mattera said. “We still have about 1,000 returning students who ask to stay on campus, and right now we’re only able to house about 400 of them.”
The project will include the integration of 1,006 beds and 241,000 ground square feet. According to the Finance and Support Services Planning page of the Texas State website, the total project cost for the complex is $96,760,000.
“One of the things we do with every construction project, is at the beginning of the year is we’ll meet with the residents,” Mattera said. “We sort of walk through what the project is, the scope, the scale, and then give them contact information if they have issues throughout the year.”
To build the new complex in the in the Hilltop area of campus, the scope of work also included the demolition of Hornsby and Burleson Halls. The project plans were approved during the May 2019 Board of Regents meeting, but the construction phase was delayed following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In some way this planning has been a little bit easier because we had two years to do it,” Mattera said. “So, in some ways, this project is a little bit ahead of where it would normally be at this point because we started some movement in 2019, and now we’re picking it back up.”