39 trees being removed to make way for UF's Heavener Hall
Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:42 p.m.
Thirty-nine trees, including two large oaks and some magnolias, have been cut down at one of the busiest corners of the University of Florida campus to make way for a $22 million building for the 2,800 undergraduates of the Warrington College of Business Administration.
Land clearing began last week as the first step in prepping the site for the 57,000-square-foot Heavener Hall, with construction expected to be completed by summer 2014, in time for the fall 2014 semester, officials said.
Having the undergraduate program under one roof will give students a sense of community, said Brian Ray, director of the Heavener School of Business. And it provides one place for all 35 business student organizations to meet, he said.
"Students will be able to spend the majority of their day in that building," Ray said.
Heavener Hall also will be the final piece of the UF business college to fall into place to be competitive with the top business colleges in the nation.
"Once completed, we will have a building for each of the three schools," he said. The Hough Graduate School of Business is in Hough Hall, and the Fisher School of Accounting is in Gerson Hall.
Business Week recently ranked UF's undergraduate program 15th among public universities and eighth overall among recruiters out of 124 schools, Ray said.
"It's just exciting to have facilities for our students that match their quality," he said.
The building is named after James W. "Bill" Heavener, a 1970 business alumnus and CEO of Full Sail University in Winter Park. Heavener made an undisclosed donation toward the construction of Heavener Hall, with other private donations to pay for the rest.
Heavener Hall will be built adjacent to Bryan Hall, in the very northeast corner of the UF campus. Ray said it's a great location because it ties the university community with the downtown Gainesville community via the Innovation Hub on Southwest Second Avenue.
It also gives the college the ability to offer small courses on professional skills currently being taught across campus.
"We teach over 30 sections of professional writing, capped at 20 students. And we teach over 20 sections of public speaking courses, capped at 25," he said. The new building will have classrooms "specifically purposed for those skills that recruiters are looking for," he said.
And it will have 18 team study rooms to give students access to classes and study facilities all hours of the day, he said.
Concerns were raised last year about the lot's size, the trees that would have to be removed, congestion and increased pedestrian traffic given its location at one of the busiest intersections in Gainesville.
That intersection would get only busier if a proposed major mixed-use development, University Corners, gets built across the street.
The corner location was approved as part of the master plan process in 2005, said Janine Sikes, assistant vice president for UF Media Relations and Public Affairs.
Building on the parking lot to the south had come up at one point during the design phase of Hough Hall, she said, but the corner site was preferred because it abuts Bryan Hall.
"The building connects to Bryan Hall, removing an ugly stairwell added to the historic building," she said.
Two oaks, some magnolias and pines were removed, along with several crepe myrtles, palms, bushes and shrubs, Sikes said. The trees that were cut down were removed to accommodate the relocation of utilities — telecommunications, water, sewer and electrical, she said.
The project provides an opportunity for the university to redesign and beautify the university gateway, to make it bigger to accommodate more foot traffic, especially if University Corners gets built, Sikes said.
"We needed to put more attention on our gateway, and it was an opportunity to revamp that corner at the same time," she said.
The plan calls for landscaping and planting new trees to replace the ones that were cut down, she said. The majority of the new trees will be oversized oaks, palms and magnolias, she said, to ensure a mature landscape one day.
"It is probably one of the most urban areas of campus," she said. "This is an urban area, and we are committed to keeping trees on our campus. However, we recognize what that corner is."