By January 2020, Vanderbilt will complete construction on the West End Neighborhood, a beautification and land use initiative of FutureVU, the university announced Monday morning. The construction will result in five new Greek houses and one new community event space, in addition to the elimination of parking and roadways in exchange for a green space with pedestrian walkways that will span the entire West End Neighborhood.
Construction will involve tearing down the Lambda Chi Alpha house, currently occupied by Delta Tau Delta, beginning in August of 2018 to make room for two houses, Zeta Tau Alpha and an NPHC house. Construction for these two houses is set to be complete a year later, during the summer of 2019.
“We’re not knocking down anything differently than what we would’ve knocked down, we’re just changing the order,” Kristin Torrey, Director of Greek Life, said.
The timeline changed after the architect determined that the current 208 lot, which was where the NPHC house was originally planned to be built, is too small to accommodate the size of the planned NPHC house. As a result, the locations and order of new construction was changed, and now the entire West End Neighborhood Project will be completed earlier than originally scheduled.
“I would emphasize that when you get into a project like this, you often discover things in the situation that require modification,” Mark Bandas, Dean of Students, said.
According to Torrey, students currently living in the Delta Tau Delta house have had accommodations for their living arrangements, and all affected Greek organizations will be able to use the community event space for their various events as their houses are being built. The new community event space will still be located at the 208 lot, but it will share the lot with the Lambda Chi Alpha house when the organization returns to campus. The 208 house will come down in January 2019, and the new house and community space will be completed in January of 2020.
“In keeping with the purposes of creating more inclusive spaces and allowing more students to use this space, the community event space also needs to be built. We can’t knock down 208 and not have a community event space; we need to have all of these spaces,” Torrey said. “With all of these spaces being of importance, it just meant we needed to escalate the time frame so that we would then have all the houses complete.”
In addition to the changes to Greek housing, the West End Neighborhood will also undergo a massive transition into a majority green space area, as all Greek parking and roads will be replaced with pedestrian walkways and green areas. The goal of this change, according to Torrey, is to make the West End Neighborhood a more inclusive space that all students can engage with and utilize.
The construction on the green spaces will begin in January of 2019. As a result, all Greek parking will end after December 2018. Students, however, will be eligible for refunds on their parking permits for half a year, or will be able to use the designated F parking spots in the 25th Avenue garage.
With the introduction of this larger green space, there is conversation about what transportation hub would look like for students to be able to access the West End Neighborhood without the roads which Vandy Vans, rideshare and delivery services currently utilize.
“There’s a transportation committee who is having those conversations,” Torrey said.
Accessibility was also a large part of the planning process for the West End Neighborhood. According to Torrey, at the present, a student with limited physical mobility would have great difficulty getting from Memorial Gym to Alumni lawn due to the placement of various inclines and steps across campus. The new plan’s pathways through the green space address these concerns by getting rid of the inaccessible staircases and inclines and make all of the West End Neighborhood more accessible to all students.
“We’re addressing those issues throughout the whole project,” Torrey said.
The university is trying to make sure student voices are heard throughout the process of designing and implementing the new building projects. There will be a FutureVU townhall on March 28 in Rand Lounge from 6 to 8 p.m. and the university updates the FutureVU website with new announcements as they come out.
“I know that people are upset and frustrated and I totally understand,” Torrey said. “I just want people to look at the potential for what this can be and really creative and awesome ways that we can use this for great things in the future. No question, next year in the spring semester, there’s going to be a lot of construction and it’s going to be loud and that’s going to pose some challenges for us. But there’s going to be some really great benefits in the future for that, so I hope that people can see the long term vision for what this can be. Students that are here right now will see the benefits of this.”