USU-Moab is eager to break ground on new campus but needs additional funding
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Mar 13, 2014 | 2332 views | 0 0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Utah State University-Moab’s new campus could take shape sooner rather than later, but the first phase of the project would likely be smaller than the school’s boosters initially envisioned. 

Steve Hawks, USU-Moab’s dean and executive director, told the Moab Area Travel Council on March 11 that he and other university officials will work to develop the facility in the short term.

Funding for the project is by no means guaranteed at this point, though. The Utah Legislature has not set aside any money for a new campus, and a previously committed private pledge of $15 million is not immediately available, according to Hawks.

“The university has no funds to make this happen in-house,” he said.

That leaves USU-Moab in search of additional private funding to break ground on a scaled-down version of the project. As more donations come in, the university would allocate those funds toward future expansions of the campus, which would be built on 40 acres about three miles south of the city center, Hawks said. 

The goal right now, however, is to redesign a facility that could be built for $6 million to $7 million, he said, noting that it might not be as hard as it sounds. 

Hawks noted that the USU system has a good track record of raising money from private donors. In 2007, for instance, a USU alumnus and his wife gave the school $15 million to build a new facility at its Uintah Basin campus in Vernal.

For the Moab campus, Hawks said that school officials must line up millions of dollars in donations before they approach state lawmakers for additional project funding.

“We’ve got to marshal our share of resources before we take it to the legislature,” he said.

Although the funding pieces of the puzzle aren’t fully in place yet, Hawks said he’s never been as optimistic as he is now that the campus will be built.

“I think it’s something that can happen in the next few years,” he said.

As he envisions it, the project would not be a “generic” college campus.

The university’s niche programs are tailor-made to Moab’s unique environment, he said, with a bachelor’s degree in recreation resource management, as well as master’s degrees in natural resources and applied environmental geoscience. Based on community feedback, the school is also offering a new minor in hospitality and tourism management.

In the future, Hawks anticipates that four-year degree and master’s-level programs would be based at the new campus, while career and technical education programs would continue at the current location near downtown.

The campus itself would be designed to create a “strong sense of place,” while reducing impacts on the surrounding area, according to a 30-year project master plan.

It would grow incrementally in clusters, while creating linked outdoor areas and courtyards, the plan says.

New buildings at the site would include 32,000-square-feet of research, classroom and laboratory space. A lecture hall would also house a multi-purpose space for concerts, theatrical performances, receptions and other events, according to the plan.

Hawks said the new campus is intended to be part of a larger hub that supports the community’s needs.

It would be located on a small section of a much larger School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) property, and Hawks expects that SITLA would work with private developers to build new student housing nearby.

According to the master plan, as many as 270 student housing units could take shape on 11 acres, while a combined total of up to 605 single-family housing units could eventually be built on another 50 acres.

A land-use plan for the area also reserves space for two three-story parking garages and 426,000-gross-square-feet for new buildings. An extensive trail system would link the campus to student housing, nearby recreational lands and the city center, according to the plan.

Hawks anticipates that the university would gradually expand over the course of a decade from its current enrollment of about 150 students to somewhere between 500 and 700 students.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a slow influx,” he said.

In the shorter term, Hawks said the city plans to upgrade the main access point at the intersection of U.S. 191 and Mill Creek Drive. Current plans call for the development of an entrance road that would lead up to the campus site southwest of the junction.

In addition to its involvement in that project, Hawks said the school has worked closely with the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) to ensure that it can extend infrastructure to the site.

“So far, everyone has said that this is a doable project,” he said.

To learn more about the project, as well as current degrees and programs, go to: http://moab.usu.edu/.

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