Texas A&M University had an official ribbon-cutting for its newest parking structure Friday, emphasizing that while it will provide additional spaces for drivers, its overall impact is expected to go well beyond the surface value.
A&M President Michael K. Young said at the ceremony that the Cain Parking Garage will help to continue pushing parking out of the middle of the campus, allowing for a more unified, pedestrian-friendly campus.
“If you look at where classrooms are distributed and so forth, you begin to see that what we’re trying to do is centralize and push out to the periphery a lot of our parking,” Young said. “We’ve invited a number of companies to come use this campus as a laboratory for some autonomous vehicles and some other things like that, which will make it a much more walkable, rideable campus and a place for students to connect.”
With relocated parking, Young said he also hopes to see more gathering spaces for students, whether that be at facilities or green spaces to help facilitate a “much more intense academic experience.”
“We want them coming here early in the morning and leaving late at night, intellectually exhausted,” Young said.
Along with the garage, he said the forthcoming hotel and conference center projects will offer benefits of their own, particularly when they provide new and improved venues in which the university’s students and faculty share their knowledge and research with others.
“We’re running three and four competing conferences a week,” Young said. “When we do a conference, people want to come and they want us to do more of them. The kind of stuff we do here really does make a difference, [and] there is just a real impetus for that as the university’s research portfolio — which is among the highest in the nation — expands.”
A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said the projects first came about after Young expressed interest in bringing a convention center to the campus. To fund the project, Sharp said the idea of using a public-private partnership for the hotel and parking garage became the solution for how to make the convention center a possibility.
“It made financial sense,” Sharp said. “You build an income-producing property here, which is a parking lot — and everybody said they needed that anyway — and you build an income-producing hotel. Between the two of them, it builds the conference center, which then becomes a pretty good little cash cow for the university itself for a long time into the future.”
Assistant Vice President for Transportation Services Peter Lange said the 500,000-square-foot garage — located just off Wellborn Road near the Memorial Student Center and Kyle Field and constructed in only nine months — features more than 1,400 new parking spaces equipped with electronic way-finding and guidance technology using red and green LED lighting to help drivers locate available spaces.
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