The UTD campus has had ongoing construction for over the past decade, and the pandemic has allowed the current construction to move at an accelerated pace – soon to result in the completed Rutford promenade and more newly-planted trees.
The Campus Land Enhancement Project started in 2007 and is currently in Phase III. In Phase I, UTD planted over 5,000 trees over University Parkway, created the Plinth and planted the magnolia trees and reflecting pool on the southern part of campus.
Calvin Jamison, vice president of facilities and economic development, said he has overseen the rapid growth of campus and has been with the project since the beginning.
“If you go to any college campus, they have a destination. UTD didn’t have one back then. You would go from the parking lot to class and back to the parking lot,” Jamison said. “We wanted to soften up the campus.”
Three years after the start of the project, Phase II began in 2010. Hundreds more trees were planted across campus and the TI Plaza was renovated. UTD was also building other structures simultaneously, including science and engineering buildings.
In 2018, Phase III of the project commenced with the construction of a promenade on Rutford, which is continuing today. Jamison said that current construction is accelerated due to the decreased presence of faculty and students.
By the end of Phase III, UTD will have planted over 7,000 trees and created six new lighted signages to help people navigate the campus. Jamison said he hopes students will return to an improved campus after the pandemic is over.
“The goal isn’t a new normal: it’s a different normal, a better normal,” Jamison said. “Students from 10 years ago would not recognize this campus because we’ve made so many improvements. We’ve built it so it feels more like a college town: Northside, retail, restaurants.”
Benedict Voit, co-founder of the McDermott Alumni Association, agreed that the campus has changed significantly since he began as a student in 2004. After graduating in 2008 with a bachelor’s in political science, Voit has remained a presence on campus.
“I was at a Finalist’s Weekend [for the McDermott program] around 2013 or 2014, and I overheard people say the campus is beautiful. It stopped me in my tracks,” Voit said. “Some people may say we could have used the funding for an endowment that could have supported five or six professors and changed the academic experience of a dozen to a hundred students, but what we have now is impacting over 30,000 students.”
Construction for the project began in Voit’s senior year, a time where he recalls that the campus had no dorms and students came to campus for classes or meetings.
“There has been a mental shift in the students, and there has been development from a visual perspective and an internal perspective,” Voit said. “The idea [for Phase I] was if you’re going down Campbell Road, all these trees are blocking everything. When you enter UTD, it’s like you’re escaping from Richardson and Dallas.”
Looking to the future, Jamison said that UTD plans for Phase IV to include the Silver Line DART station, a bridge from Northside to the campus and another promenade. Voit said that further construction will give the campus a more typical university appearance and foster a better college experience.
“I think Dallas is one of the few major cities [in the US] without a top tier university: New York, Chicago, Houston, all these places have them,” Voit said. “The demand and need are there, and UTD is there to fill that role.”