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Weekend edition February 03, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Construction at, next to UTK will change campus landscape

From sport facility upgrades to new academic buildings and an overhaul of part of Cumberland Avenue, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's section of the city is about to get a facelift.

Changes to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s (UTK) section of the city are coming in like a wrecking ball. That’s especially true if a wrecking ball is the chosen demolition method for several buildings on Cumberland Avenue.

As students are settling in for a new semester, they’re navigating around new and continuing construction projects on and off campus, all meant to improve everyone’s experience.

Let’s start with the changes off-campus.

Crews are expected to soon begin the demolition of several buildings along a block-and-a-half stretch of Cumberland Avenue, known locally as the Strip. Some of those include Stefano’s Pizza, the Shell gas station, and University Liquors.

Plans are to build four new mixed-use buildings, with retail on the bottom levels and student housing above. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports “the four housing buildings would include 36 total stories, nearly 30,000 square feet of commercial space, 864 units, and 2,274 beds.”

That will be an ongoing project, working to ultimately add more housing options for students while continuing to make the Strip more pedestrian-friendly.

On-campus, new academic buildings, greenspaces, and upgraded athletic facilities are in the works, according to a detailed release from UTK, which breaks down each project below.

Planting of native trees, shrubs, and flowering plants at the new Stormwater Park is expected to begin in late February as the weather warms up. The plants thrive in a wet environment and will purify the water in a new stormwater management system. The system will create an urban park with water features, seating, and outdoor teaching and recreation areas. The park, on the west end of campus, remains on track for a spring 2023 opening.

The new 157,000-square-foot Energy and Environmental Science Research Building is scheduled to open in spring 2024. It will provide research labs, classrooms, a 500-seat auditorium, and a new commons area with food service for the UT Institute of Agriculture.

The Croley Nursing Building remains on schedule for a fall 2025 opening. It will replace the former College of Nursing Building, which was torn down. Construction crews are working to install the foundations for the new building. The 117,000-square-foot building will offer classrooms, simulation labs, research labs, offices, and a green roof.

Additional improvements at Neyland Stadium will continue through 2025, with more changes unveiled each season. In 2023 fans will notice brick accent walls leading from the field area to the concourses as well as preparatory construction for upcoming amenities such as expanded food preparation areas for concessions and improved bathroom facilities.

While those projects are currently under construction, several others are waiting their turn in the design phase.

Design kicked off in January for the multiphase Lindsey Nelson Baseball Stadium project, which will fully update the facility. Enhancements include all areas of the fan experience with seating, food, lighting, and sound and visual updates. For 2023, fans will find third-level porches and chair backs along the right-field line. New seating and amenities will be available along both the first- and third baselines starting in 2024. All renovations are planned to be completed in time for the 2025 season.

Design for a new building to expand the Haslam College of Business is set to begin in March 2023. The new building will provide state-of-the-art classrooms, collaboration areas, and additional office space. It will be constructed across Volunteer Boulevard from the existing Haslam Business Building.

The West Volunteer Boulevard Streetscape project is being completed in phases to accommodate academic and special event schedules. Construction is expected to begin on the section from Caledonia Avenue north to Cumberland Avenue in summer 2023. That phase is scheduled to be completed in time for fall 2023 move-in. A subsequent phase in 2024 will complete the improvements, removing all parking from this main thoroughfare. It will positively affect pedestrians’ experience while helping the university meet its sustainability goals.

A new student success building will be constructed in the footprint of Melrose Hall. It is expected to enter the design phase in June 2023. The building will house the Division of Student SuccessStudent Disability Services, five instructional classrooms, and academic and special event spaces. Opening is planned for 2026.

The Jenny Boyd Carousel Theatre has moved into the design phase and is projected to open in fall 2025. The new 17,000-square-foot building will replace the Carousel Theatre and provide experimental and flexible theatre space with multiple levels of seating, a lobby, greenroom, and back-of-house support spaces.

UTK is also working to build two new residence halls, possibly three, through public-private partnerships. These ideas are still in development and don’t have much information available.

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