PULASKI, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees wrapped up their winter meeting Friday with changes to the Knoxville campus master plan.
The changes include two new residence halls and further expanding the campus footprint south of the Tennessee River.
The Trustees’ meeting at the new UT Southern campus in Pulaski approved an amendment for the student housing portion of the master plan. The document makes multiple mentions of UT enrollment growing faster than expected and calls the situation an “immediate need to construct new residence halls.”
UT aims to meet that need, first with a new dorm at the corner of Andy Holt Avenue and 20th Street. That site would be in the remaining area of the west campus redevelopment where UT built Dogwood and Magnolia Halls.
UT estimates the new building would provide approximately 525 beds in double occupancy rooms with a shared bath.
A second, larger dorm would be built between Caledonia and Terrace Avenues. That residence hall would also have double occupancy rooms, adding around 750 beds to the 8,258 in UT’s current stock.
Adding those new buildings to the master plan lets UT move ahead with getting state approval and then beginning the design process. This addition would expand on the 2016 effort to redevelop the west end of UT’s campus housing area.
UT demolished older residence halls dating to the 1960s which made up Presidential Courtyard. Carrick and Reese Halls from that complex are still standing, but planners describe them as in need of major repairs.
Also, UT describes low ceiling heights and room configurations as “unappealing to today’s college student.” They’re reportedly so unappealing that students request them as a “last option.”
Renovating Carrick and Reese is still on the table, but UT notes that those factors which turn off modern students also make an overhaul difficult.
Looking further into the future, UT planners say the same growth pressuring campus housing means the campus needs to grow beyond its current boundaries.
The master plan changes approved by trustees aims to accomplish that by adding a narrow swath of land on the south bank of the Tennessee River along Scottish Pike and W. Blount Avenue.
Documents presented to the board describe the area as largely made up now of underutilized buildings and vacant industrial sites.
UT offered no specific plans for the area, but points to the property as a unique opportunity to meet the need for “student parking, housing and other facilities.”
Also, this part of the master plan amendment points to new opportunities for the community from the City of Knoxville’s success with its 15-year waterfront development project. That plan, as the document points out, included extensive public input.
In a throwback to the 2010s, the amendment mentions talk of a pedestrian bridge across the river brought up during that development project but never built. Planners tout the cross-river campus footprint as “an asset to the campus rather than a barrier.”
Expanding the boundary would not mean UT would buy those properties, but rather it is a first step to evaluating such a purchase under normal due-diligence procedures and moving forward if UT chooses to do so.
Trustees Friday also heard UT President Randy Boyd’s 2022 goals and objectives.
Among the bullet points in the university system’s news release are increasing eligibility and year-to-year retention of UT Promise scholarship students. Holding on to more first-year undergraduate students is another goal with a target of .8% fall-to-fall retention.