UMass to update public on latest campus plans; Monday night meeting will focus on roadways

In the midst of a building boom, UMass Boston officials plan in the coming weeks to push ahead with a proposed revamping of the Columbia Point campus’s roadways. The university will host a public meeting next Monday at 6 p.m. at its Campus Center to update community members on campus construction and potential changes to the roads surrounding the property.

Intended to eliminate the “racetrack” feel of the campus, the complex relocation of university roads involves expanding underground utilities and the construction of a new parking garage, which will be located near the new integrated sciences complex that is now under construction.

Campus roads will reduce the number of lanes coming into and out of the university, as well as making them two-way in order to improve traffic flow. Roads in front of the Campus Center that lead to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum are slated to be rebuilt and pulled closer to the Center.

Dorothy Renaghan, the assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, said the university has tapped a construction manager, Bond Brothers, for the utility and road relocation effort.

Utilities that service the campus are currently in the upper and lower levels of the present unused garage, which was closed in 2006 after a Big Dig tunnel’s ceiling collapse killed a car passenger and raised safety concerns. The former 1,560-car garage serves as a foundation for the campus, connecting the various academic and administrative buildings.

The campus master plan calls for the closed garage to come down and be replaced with a quad the size of Harvard Yard, while underground utilities would follow the route of the university road that circles the campus. The utilities project, which will also service the building dedicated to the study of the US Senate and named for the late Edward M. Kennedy, could be completed by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016.

UMass officials have also been weighing the placement of a new parking garage on University Drive West, near where the rotary is.

One option would shift the road northward, with a seven-level parking facility being built adjacent to the Clark Center gymnasium, with room on the ground floor for university shipping and receiving operations and athletic team buses.

A second option calls for a nine-level garage and places it on the opposite side of University Drive West, and up against a sliver of land UMass is negotiating to lease to Boston College High School, which the high school intends to use to build a pair of baseball fields, including one that replicates Fenway Park on a smaller scale. The second option would also include a catwalk connecting the garage to the university’s service and supply building. Under both options, the garages would hold around 1,300 parking spaces.

At next Monday’s meeting, UMass officials will update community members on plans for a $110 million academic building with teaching labs, a theater, a recital hall, and a dance studio. The groundbreaking is expected to occur this fall, in the parking area known as the “north lot,” next to the Campus Center.

Officials will also likely talk about the efforts to clean up and secure the former Calf Pasture pumping station, which the university acquired in exchange for $2.1 million in scholarships for Boston Public School students. Obsolete electrical transformers were removed from the building, new fencing has been installed, and debris, trees, and shrubs have been taken out.

The university has abandoned the potentially costly idea of temporarily housing campus police in “modular structures” on the pumping station property, and instead will likely put them in the planned University Drive West garage.