Butler University is wrapping up a $4 million project that’s largely out of public view but should benefit the campus by alleviating the growing college’s parking problems.
The private university is slated to finish improvements soon to 90 acres it owns west of the Central Canal that’s accessible from the campus only by pedestrian bridges or via Lester Road, which runs through the hamlet of Rocky Ripple.
Butler’s softball complex, soccer fields, tennis courts and campus farm are on the 90-acre site, which will gain three parking lots with a total of 520 spaces as well as a multi-use path extending from the softball field to the farm. The path will link to the towpath along the canal when finished within the next week.
The largest lot, containing 404 spaces, is near the intramural and soccer fields and will be targeted toward underclassmen living on campus, said Ben Hunter, chief of staff to Butler President James M. Danko and a City-County Council member.
“We continue to see larger freshman classes, but really, this project is a short-term strategy,” said Hunter, noting that Butler is studying more comprehensive building, housing and parking needs.
The university hopes the lot will alleviate some of the issues created by students who park in the surrounding neighborhoods.
For the public’s use, Butler built a 69-space parking lot near the softball complex and bridge to Holcomb Gardens. The lot will provide better access to the canal’s towpath that’s popular with walkers, runners and bicyclists.
As part of the $4 million project, Butler also is installing a lighted, eight-foot-wide multi-use path west of the existing towpath. It runs from the public parking lot south past the student lot and to the campus farm, where it juts east to link with the towpath and a pedestrian bridge that extends across the canal and onto campus.
The new features are part of the university’s goal to encourage as much use of the canal as possible.
“We have water running through our campus,” Hunter said. “There are colleges across the country that would love to have that amenity.”
The third and smallest parking lot, about 45 spaces, is near the tennis courts and replaces an existing gravel lot.
A portion of the three lots are made from permeable asphalt that allows the movement of storm-water through the surface to reduce runoff.
A well near the campus farm used to water the vegetables grown there has been capped and replaced by city water lines. Butler extended the lines from campus to get infrastructure in place for future projects that might be built in the area.
In addition, Butler will install 12 security cameras and five “code-blue” phones within the next few weeks near the parking lots and new path.
Butler also is adding a shuttle stop, upgrading restrooms and painting the two pedestrian bridges “Butler blue.”
The university hired the local office of New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff to serve as a parking consultant. It established a task force that recommended the additional parking lots.
The city’s Metropolitan Development Commission on Aug. 21 granted Butler final approval to make the changes, though the city had granted the university an early conditional permit to start work.