It seems students and faculty at Oklahoma State University love to complain about parking on campus, but a new parking garage might change that.
Steve Spradling, the director of Parking and Transportation Services, said there is plenty of parking on OSU’s campus, but there isn’t a lot of parking close to the heart of campus, which causes people to complain there isn’t enough parking. Plans to build a parking garage where the Kerr-Drummond dormitories are could put a stop to those complaints.
The Kerr-Drummond dormitories were built in 1965, and Kerr closed in 2015. Drummond closed in May. Part of OSU’s long-range plans include tearing Kerr-Drummond down in 2020, 2021 or 2022 and replacing the dorms with a parking garage by 2030.
A parking garage in that area could add 1,000 parking spaces close to the heart of campus.
Mike Buchert, the director of Long Range Facilities Planning, said the university has toyed with the idea of turning Kerr-Drummond into a parking garage for 14 years, but there is a lot of work to be done before that can happen.
“The two towers need to be torn down and money needs to become available,” Buchert said. “Right now, our situation is that in the parking area, we’re in such debt that we can’t borrow any more money until some of that debt is paid off... Our estimate is five to 10 years from now we’ll have paid enough where we can build another parking garage.”
Spradling said Parking Services borrowed about $7.3 million to build the Monroe Street Garage and the Multimodal Transportation Terminal, and there is about $3.5 million to $4 million of that debt left. Spradling said he is unsure of how much needs to be paid off for the Wentz Lane Garage and the Student Union Parking Garage, but Parking Services pays about $2 million a year toward its debts.
The cost to build a parking garage where Kerr-Drummond is would depend on the size of the parking garage. Spradling said Parking Services hasn’t decided the size because it doesn’t have the money, and the bigger the garage is, the more expensive it will be.
“The site lends to the fact that we could build a pretty large garage,” Spradling said. “You want to build at least 600 to 800 spaces for efficiency reasons, but that site could have at least 1,000 spaces on it, if not more.”
It costs about $20,000 per parking space, so an 800-space garage would cost about $16 million, Spradling said.
Parking Services is financed mostly by selling parking permits and giving tickets, but Spradling said giving tickets is a secondary source of income it tries not to rely on.
Parking rates will have gone up naturally by the time the new parking garage is built, so Spradling doesn’t know how much a parking pass for the new garage will cost, but he said he thinks it will be about the same price as the Monroe Street Garage at $212 and $60 for a motorcycle.
Money is not the only thing the university needs to find before it can build a parking garage on the site of Kerr-Drummond. The Kerr-Drummond Mezzanine is between the two dormitories, and it houses four campus dining options: Twenty Something Convenience Store, Country Barbeque, Which Wich and Linguetti’s. The university needs to find a replacement for these dining options before it can tear the Mezzanine down and build a parking garage.
Spradling said one of the options being considered is to build a new dining facility in the parking garage.
“Basically, like half of the first level would be basically just retail space,” Spradling said. “It would just have the concrete above it would be sealed and completely waterproof so that nothing gets into the retail space. There’s some in Oklahoma City like that.”
The university will have to determine whether building a campus dining option in the parking garage would be cost efficient. If it decides it would be too expensive, Spradling said he doesn’t know what else it would do to replace the dining options.
Spradling said when Kerr and Drummond come down, the Mezzanine will not come down immediately because it is needed for campus dining. When the buildings are torn down, Spradling said he hopes to extend the parking lot right next to Drummond and turn Kerr into green space while they wait to build the parking garage.
Taylor Lopez, an applied sociology junior, said she would love it if there was a parking garage where Kerr-Drummond is. She said she has a silver commuter permit this year and has trouble finding a parking space whenever she doesn’t get to campus before 8 a.m.
Even though a parking garage permit costs more than a silver commuter permit, Lopez said she would buy one.
“It’s pretty centrally located, better than a lot of parking spots on campus,” Lopez said. “... At this point, it’s getting to class on time or getting here an hour early to find good parking. So the cost is worth it.”
Although Spradling and Buchert said they think a new parking garage could be beneficial to the OSU campus, there are people like Rex Horning who said he will be sad to see the dormitories go.
Horning lived in Kerr Residence Hall from September 1970 to May 1972 during his freshman and sophomore years at OSU. He said he remembers his time in Kerr fondly, and his hallmates were like his family.
“We all took great pride in being in Kerr Hall,” Horning said. “... There was always good comradery... I think everybody got on really well on all of the floors. My overall dorm experience at Kerr was nothing but first class.”
Horning said he and his hallmates used to play pranks on one another and on other floors, and he said he remembered they had floor football and basketball teams. Horning said he and his friends took great pride in being on Kerr 12 and said he thinks the experience of living in an environment like that is important.
Horning said he knows the university has changed a lot since he was in school and more parking is probably needed, but he said he thinks future students will miss out on the opportunity to live in a dorm like Kerr.
“I just think that, overall, the whole concept of campus housing has changed so radically,” Horning said. “... You take the dorm experience away, there’s probably not a time in a person’s maturing life that they live in that type of setting... I think there’s something to be missed at some point in life not living in an environment where you have to socially adapt to be around 30, 40 people. It’s a different experience most people don’t have at all anymore. It’s going away... So it’s kind of sad in a way, but with the new housing and parking, needs are necessary to accommodate the new students.”
Natasha Green, a junior at OSU and a former Drummond Hall resident, said she had a great experience living in Drummond her freshman year, and she said she thinks the university should renovate the dorms like it did with Iba Residence Hall in 2018.
Green said living in a dorm connected to the Mezzanine made her experience living on campus better than it would have been in a different residence hall.
“Parking is important because OSU has admitted to overselling their parking passes... but my thing was, when I lived in Drummond, I didn’t have to go to the library,” Green said. “... You could print and not have to go to the library. You could get snacks and hang out with friends and not even leave the building... Just the convenience was so nice... I don’t understand why they would tear it down to make a parking garage. I feel like a parking garage would not be as beneficial as a residence hall.”
Buchert said the university isn’t renovating Kerr-Drummond because it doesn’t need the buildings as dormitories. The buildings are almost 54 years old, and they were closed because the maintenance on them was becoming too expensive.
Buchert said the university was waiting to close Kerr-Drummond until it had replacements for those dorms. The University Commons is the replacement. Now it just needs the money to tear down the buildings.
“The current parking garages are completely sold out and adding another parking garage, there’s more than enough cars on campus to support it near the central part of the campus,” Buchert said.
As OSU’s campus grows, so does its parking needs. There are many remote parking lots, but people prefer to park closer to their classes, Buchert said. Because of that, he said he thinks a parking garage where Kerr-Drummond is would get a lot of use.
“Parking near the central part of the campus is needed and that is an excellent place for a parking garage,” Buchert said. “You’ll pay more for parking there, but you’ll be closer to the central part of the campus.”