The projects listed below represent the next phase of UTEP's campus transformation, which turns attention toward open spaces and pathways between buildings, creating an even more inviting campus climate.
The center of campus will feature a new Centennial Plaza bordered by the Union, Geological Sciences, Psychology and Administration buildings. This large space will be created by eliminating streets and parking lots and the vehicular traffic they support, and recapturing the beauty of the unique rock structures and natural arroyos that will be exposed once the pavement is stripped away. Centennial Plaza will include a large open area reminiscent of urban plazas located across the Paso del Norte region and in Mexico, where residents congregate and celebrate life. A paseo for strolling, socializing and relaxing, or for studying with classmates and friends, will be shaded by groves of native mesquite trees. This expansive and versatile green space at the heart of the UTEP campus will become an oasis for campus and community events, a haven for artists, thinkers and writers, and an ideal venue as an outdoor classroom.
In 2008, a beautiful hand-carved and hand-painted lhakhang, the centerpiece of Bhutan's participation in the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., was presented by the people of Bhutan to the people of the United States for permanent installation on the UTEP campus. This beautiful little building's presence on our campus underscores UTEP's strong ties to Bhutan and our mission to expand the global perspective of our students. The lhakhang will be located at the northwest edge of Centennial Plaza between Magoffin Auditorium and the Geological Sciences Building.
Leech Grove has a special place in the hearts of most UTEP students, past and present. Capitalizing on its central campus location, student organizations have gathered here for many years, conducting activities to recruit members, raise funds, entertain and educate their fellow students about current issues. Leech Grove honors the memory of R. Milton Leech, a UTEP faculty member in Theatre Arts who also served as vice president and acting president. A terrace of native greenery and flowering plants will frame the desert garden knoll on the Grove's eastern edge, and a fountain at the Grove's center will double as another stage for performances. The broad canopy of trees, for which this space is well known, will continue to provide ample shade over stone seating elements and lawn areas, and ensure that Leech Grove will remain one of the most appealing gathering places on the UTEP campus.
The new Bhutanese-style pedestrian overpass on Sun Bowl Drive, together with the "Mining Minds" sculpture in the roundabout at the intersection of Sun Bowl Drive and University Avenue, serve as spectacular landmarks at the western gateway to the UTEP campus. We plan now to create another major — and distinctively beautiful — campus entrance landmark at the eastern gateway for those who approach campus on University Avenue from Oregon and Mesa streets. The new gateway will feature a portal spanning the street, a bridge that crosses the arroyo, and a car/pedestrian plaza located near the bridge for easy passenger loading and unloading. Trees will line University Avenue from the campus's eastern entrance to the Oregon Street intersection.
The arroyo, which cuts through UTEP from Miner Village on the northeastern edge to the College of Business Administration at the southwestern corner, is a unifying natural feature of the campus, and serves to link the campus to our surrounding neighborhoods. Its natural beauty will be enhanced with the addition of new bridges, overlooks and landscaping. New pathways and seating areas will encourage walking, bicycling and other outdoor activity both within the campus itself and as the campus connects with planned neighborhood developments in such areas as Arroyo Park. Innovative design concepts will capture water to replenish the plant and wildlife that call the arroyo home, and help support the year-round beauty of this natural desert feature. Rainwater harvesting and other responsible water-use techniques will also be used to reduce UTEP's maintenance and utility costs.
This long walkway, extending from the southern end of Sun Bowl Stadium to University Avenue, is surrounded on the west by the Sun Bowl parking garage and the UTEP Bookstore and on the east by the Fox Fine Arts Center and Hudspeth, Worrell and Miners halls. Students, faculty and staff who now use it exclusively for passage on campus will soon find an inviting place for studying, relaxation and conversation with friends among the shaded gathering spaces that will create the microclimate of a desert canyon. Trees and dense Chihuahuan Desert vegetation, including attractive flowering plants, will create a full, lush environment abounding in foliage and color.
Old Main, UTEP's most historic building, was the first to be completed when the University (then known as the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy) moved to our present campus site in 1917. The elegance and dignity of this historic building will be provided the serene setting it deserves when Circle Drive is replaced with an inviting pedestrian concourse that opens onto a park extending south to the Psychology Building and east to Vowell Hall and the Education Building. In addition to native plants and rock outcrops, this space will incorporate a decorative water feature.
The Union Building plays a central role in creating a campus community. It is a destination for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for meetings, film festivals, pep rallies and public events. The courtyard at the west entrance of Union Building West will be converted into a shaded patio with the addition of a column-supported trellis arbor. This new gathering space, which will overlook Centennial Plaza, will accommodate such organized activities as Minerpalooza as well as informal gatherings of students, faculty and staff.
A portion of Wiggins Road, which was developed at the College of Mines and Metallurgy (now The University of Texas at El Paso) during the late 1930s, was scheduled to get a dramatic facelift beginning in 2012. The focal point of the enhancement will be a multilevel elliptical plaza outside the front of the University Library that will stretch across the street and incorporate part of the vacant lot adjacent to the Health Sciences and Nursing Building. The design, which includes shade trees, curving benches and light poles powered by solar energy, allows pedestrian and vehicular traffic to share public space and blend in a safe and orderly way. “Cars will be allowed to pass through the plaza, but will be required to slow down as they weave through it,” said Greg McNicol, associate vice president of facilities services. UTEP President Diana Natalicio helped conceptualize the Wiggins Road project, which will have a 20-foot diameter walking maze, or labyrinth. The $900,000 project will be paid for through funds allocated to the new Health Sciences and Nursing Building.
Gifts to the UTEP Campus Transformation Fund (CTF) provide alumni and friends, as well as corporations and foundations, the opportunity not only to make a highly visible and permanent investment in UTEP, but also to have a major impact on the quality of life on this campus and in our surrounding community. According to UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio, our campus transformation initiative “promises to be one of the lasting legacies of our Centennial.”
University stakeholders who are interested in making a financial contribution to support these projects may go to givingto.utep.edu or contact the UTEP Development Office at (915) 747-8533.