2 years ago
Cara Santucci
Mercury Staff
Arun Prasath
Mercury Staff

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how large the SSB expansion will be. The Mercury regrets this error.

University officials and facilities management celebrated the beginning of construction on the second Student Services Building on July 29. The new building is expected to be completed by the fall of 2016.

The $26 million project will be 68,000 square feet when completed. The new SSB will replace parking lot K that sits between the engineering building and the existing student services building. It will be four stories tall, including an underground level for maintenance and golf cart storage.

The above ground stories will house plenty of open study space, workrooms, the Veteran Services Center, the Center for Students in Recovery and rooms that can be rented by student groups. The SSB addition will also have a 500-seat auditorium.

The building is being financed through a revenue finance system — a low interest loan from the state — and existing funds.

Kelly Kinnard, the director of physical plant services, has been acting as a liaison between the architects and the faculty to ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible.

“There are complications with every project,” Kinnard said. “No one wants to lose a parking lot but we’ve got to if we’re going to have this building.”

Kinnard said the university has plans to supplement parking with a new garage opening by Clark Center at some point in the future. It will be similar to the two existing parking structures on campus.

During construction, all of lot K will be shut down. The end of Drive A will also be closed and a new turn-around will be created next to the engineering building to help the flow of traffic.

Those involved in the project began planning about a year ago to figure out the details of the building’s construction. According to Kinnard, the university’s growing population made the space deficiency on campus obvious some time ago.

When the original SSB was built in 2009, UTD had 14,000 students. Now the number is closer to 25,000. Gene Fitch, the vice president for Student Affairs, noticed the cramped quarters in the SSB when he first joined UTD five years ago.

“The running joke (when I joined) was that before we’d moved in, we’d already outgrown the building,” Fitch said. “As it happens, that joke turned out to be somewhat prophetic, so it brings me relief and excitement to be standing here today preparing to break ground on this addition.”

While planning the project, faculty members in the Office of Student Affairs spoke with student groups to discover what was needed in the new building. Matt Grief, the associate vice president for Student Affairs, was involved in the conversations with students.

“Each section that we looked at, for example, SUAAB, (we) met with the students in that group (and asked): ‘What do you need in that space?’” Grief said. “We got a good grasp of what students needed by meeting with them throughout the years.”

Student Government President Caitlynn Fortner is focused on making sure students have the ability to use the services in the new building.

“(Student Government’s) involvement … from here on out is (about) making sure that students have access to things we think they should have access to,” Fortner said. “For instance, (we are) making sure (the theater) really is a student space and not something that’s going to be on locks.”

Kinnard said the new addition will enhance the school’s outreach to students.

“The building itself will offer Student Affairs and Student Services the ability to better serve the students,” he said.