By MASON McCLAY – STAFF WRITER
Centre’s campus is often applauded for its nearly constant renovation of facilities, from the eagerness and openness to altering the quality of some spaces (Sandella’s), to some of the more unique additions to campus (Religious Life and Contemplation Room). The standard of constructing a campus suited to the needs and often eclectic desires of Centre students has traditionally been contrasted with a frustrating issue: a lack of available parking space.
I’ve witnessed this problem leading to unjust parking fines for violations that were almost necessary, and the occasional mental breakdown as this underrated and overlooked stressor adds to the tipping point of red-faced students during finals week. The issue of parking is often such an inconvenience that I actively plan my grocery runs around the schedules of friends and acquaintances just to avoid the added annoyance.
However, my fellow students, not all is lost as the long anticipated construction of the new parking lot on 5th St. approaches its commencement.
After Centre was denied its request for demolishing the historic home on 124 5th St., a house held vacant for several years due to large amounts of contamination, a plan for relocation was formulated for the structure. This obstacle has, unfortunately, pushed back the date of the parking lot construction significantly. “Construction on the parking lot will most likely start in the spring,” Director of Facilities Management Wayne King said.
He attributes this to complications caused by moving the 124 house. Although Danville’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) chairman Les Letton has voiced his concern of Centre overstepping its boundaries into Danville property, Centre has informed the community that the new lot will be more aesthetically pleasing for the area and that some green space will also be added within the lot.
Fortunately for the students that struggle to find parking, this space will be added to the 125 vacant spaces, Director of the Department of Public Safety Gary Bugg reported. Without any regulations on which residents are permitted to park in the new lot, the amount of space seems it will provide a comfortable cushion for the parking-challenged. “I’m expecting around 40 new spaces. The lot will not be restricted to 5th St. residents. I think that the lot will mostly be for students but we might designate a portion of it for faculty and staff,” Bugg said.
Although the space appears to be a promising new feature to a campus committed to a perpetual improvement of quality, I am still skeptical. Three issues rattle my mind: the tardiness of the project, the perception of Centre College infiltrating the historic sights of Danville (a problem, in my mind, related to the recent renovations of the Combs Warehouse), and the inevitable increase of student population.
While the tardiness of the project is worthy of a bit of sympathy, it seems necessary to begin the dialogue concerning the negative perception of the College’s expansion from the surrounding area as well as the tentative issue of a growing student body. This combined issue seems complicated; however, it is my belief that creative solutions can be implemented in the future.
An example of such a solution may include expanding the lots behind the Combs Center and Greek Row where vast green space presides virtually unused. If this solution was considered, Centre would avoid encroaching into any more historic sites in Danville while providing relatively close parking to students. Another alternative could include expanded parking and renovations behind the Norton Center. A renovated soccer field and expanded lots behind Pearl and Yerkes seems to be the most ideal outcome, which would provide parking in close proximity to dormitories and busier areas of the college.
While each of these speculative solutions to a pending issue are costly and possibly unfeasible, viable alternatives need to be considered, and the general perception that we will indefinitely have appropriate parking needs to be abolished.
“I think Centre’s growth plans are fairly modest—only a couple dozen more students in the coming few years,” Dean of Student Life Randy Hays said. “So, the goal for parking would continue to be simply having more student spaces than student cars.”
While Dean Hays’s lack of concern seems proper in the context of the construction of a new lot, the factor of friends and families potentially visiting needs to be considered.
And as we all know from direct experience, weekends and days of highly-marketed events prove to be especially stressful as you’re helping a mother, brother, or friend search for a parking spot, often hoping that it’s legal.