A CAMPUS TRANSFORMED
It took vision, teamwork, determined leadership and $25 million to transform the core of The University of Texas at El Paso into an award-winning oasis lauded for its beauty and function. The new look, which officially was unveiled in April 2015, promotes sustainability and the campus’ natural topography. While the University follows the academic mantra of “Access and Excellence,” this quality-of-life effort promotes excellence in our environment.
The crown jewel of UTEP’s Campus Transformation project is the 11-acre Centennial Plaza, which includes an oval grassy area 2/3 the size of a football field bordered by the Union, Psychology, Administration and Geological Sciences buildings. Multi-textured paseos, decorative lighting, and native and drought-resistant landscaping add color and ambiance. Among the plaza’s other attractions are a steel bridge, two water features, fire pits and a 130 seat amphitheater. Just as important are the 1,700 feet of arroyos and 1,000 feet of acequias that help capture and funnel storm water to replenish the underground aquifer. The Wi-Fi accessible site has become a popular destination for campus and community members and serves as the campus living room.
HAWTHORNE STREET/WIGGINS WAY
The initial Campus Transformation construction phases included enhancements to these two important east-west arterials. They now include wider walkways and landscaping befitting the Chihuahuan Desert, such as water-friendly trees like mesquite, Palo Verde, Chinese pistache and Arizona ash. Hawthorne received new lighting, benches and slatted canopies. Wiggins’ enhancements include a circular pathway in front of the University Library that crosses the road, a bioswell median and a rustic labyrinth set outside the Health Sciences and Nursing Building.
The cultural exhibit located on the western edge of Centennial Plaza was a gift from the people of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan to the people of the United States of America. Bhutanese officials asked that the Lhakhang be erected at UTEP because of the institution’s strong ties to the country. It was created by Bhutanese artisans for the 2008 Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The building’s exterior showcases Bhutanese artistry. The interior is lined with intricate murals and figures that help tell the story of the history of Bhutan.
OLD MAIN PLAZA
The area bounded by Old Main, the Psychology Building and Vowell and Prospect halls was among the final pieces of the Campus Transformation project. It includes a small amphitheater, arroyos with infiltration ponds, picnic tables, and a renovated Miner Heritage Park between Old Main and Vowell Hall. The park features seven pieces of old mining equipment such as an ore car that either were donated to UTEP or found on campus.
The visibly spectacular Centennial Plaza masks a trove of underground utility lines that were installed during the project to provide the University with the power to grow its robust research and academic agendas for decades to come. Contractors spent months breaking through sub-surface bedrock to create the channels that would hold the vital utility and service lines, replacing some that were nearly 100 years old.
Green Business Certification Inc. recognized UTEP’s Campus Transformation project with the world’s first official SITES Silver Award for achievement in sustainability. The project also earned the People’s Choice Award in the Outstanding Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Project Competition from the Environmental Protection Agency, the international Society for College and University Planning’s 2016 Honor Award for excellence in landscape architecture, and the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture’s 2015 Texas Gold Leaf Award for landscape improvements that enhance conservation, beautification, energy conservation and environmental protection.