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Historic halls to be demolished to make way for new research facility

The long-decaying buildings, Burges and Barry Hall, located west of the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center, have been scheduled for demolition, which is set to being the week of June 22.

The two former dormitories were constructed in 1963 and 1971, and recently Burges Hall has housed offices and a research lab. According to University Communications, faculty and staff who used to work in Burges Hall have been relocated to Kelly Hall, Prospect Hall, the Campbell Building and the Physical Sciences Building.

Burges Hall will be the first building to be brought down with the use of hydraulic demolition claws, and the debris will be carried out in trailers through University Avenue and the Sun Bowl Drive roundabout and then they will enter I-10 west.

As of now, there will be a brief closure of the sidewalk next to Burges Hall. Although a right-hand, northbound lane on Sun Bowl Drive, south of the University Avenue roundabout, will also be closed for about two months, the road will remain open throughout the project.

“I hope they don’t close the streets, it’s very hard to get to class, especially when it is the first day it happens,” said Edmundo Silva, senior math major, while he was outside the library overlooking the aging Barry Hall. “I only hope they build something the university needs right now when it’s finished.”

Associate Vice President for Business Affairs Greg McNicol said the demolition project will cost a total of $1.9 million and the result makes room for the new $70-million Interdisciplinary Research Building, which was recently approved by the Texas Legislature.

According to McNicol, this new facility will be an essential building block in UTEP’s strategic plan to expand the research infrastructure required to recruit and retain top-tier faculty members and their research teams. It will also serve as a catalyst to attract competitive doctoral and undergraduate students, while increasing the capacity to generate additional research revenues.

The university opted for demolition instead of renovation because, according to McNicol, the investment of renovation would have been cost prohibitive and of limited benefit due to inherent structural constraints.

The main benefit of this new project will be that this state-of-the-art research facility will make far more productive and efficient use of this prime location and help accelerate UTEP’s progress towards becoming a nationally recognized research university. This facility will also provide critically needed space to continue expanding the number of fast-growing, multi-disciplinary research initiatives.

The demolition  is scheduled to be done by August 2015.

Although it will be a big project, it is welcomed by students such as Hector Ortiz, junior nursing major, who said he is excited to have a project that could take UTEP a step further in recognition.

“I don’t care about closures, I ride my bike, if it makes a better campus let’s just cope with it,” Ortiz said.

Juan Raygoza may be reached at [email protected].   

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Historic halls to be demolished to make way for new research facility