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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosales and Partners

For Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, the sky bridge that will connect the Belo Center for New Media to the Jones Communication Center will serve both functional and symbolic purposes. 

The funding for the pedestrian bridge came as part of the Moody Foundation of Galveston’s $50 million donation to the college in October 2013, when the college became its namesake. Slated for completion by December 2015, the bridge will stretch across Dean Keeton Street, connecting the second floor of the Belo Center to the fourth floor of Communication Buildings A and B. Hart said the structure will serve as a gateway to the campus and as a visual connector for the college.

“The bridge has always been important to me,” Hart said. “My main concern was to kind of pull the College of Communication back together physically and visually.”

Before the Belo Center opened in November 2012, the college’s faculty shared cramped quarters in the two Jones Communication Center buildings, known as the CMA and CMB. Since the college expanded across Dean Keeton Street — creating a physical division — Hart said his goal has been to maintain the collegial bond between the college’s various departments.

“My concern was that we would lose that sense of connection with one another,” Hart said. “The departments have always gotten along really well.”

Of the $50 million donated by the Moody Foundation, $3 million is going toward construction of the sky bridge and other renovations.

The $3 million budget was a challenge for both Hart and bridge architect Miguel Rosales, who was selected by the Faculty Building Advisory Committee to design the structure.

“I frankly didn’t think we could get something this beautiful for that amount of money, so I’m delighted,” Hart said. “That’s the great value of having someone like Miguel, who can make something look quite elegant and grand yet not have it cost an excessive amount of money.”

Rosales, based in Boston, said the bridge is his first project located in Austin. A main feature of the bridge is its towering center columns, which will serve as the primary support for the walkway.

“I had to try to work within the budget, and I did my best to balance the engineering and aesthetic concerns with the cost,” Rosales said. “I think we achieved a good balance in designing something the school can afford, but, in the same way, something that’s going to be an exciting structure that the students will like to see and cross.”

In August, Hart announced that he will resign from his post in May 2015 after a decade as dean. Hart said securing funding for the sky bridge, along with the construction of the Belo Center, have been high points of his tenure as dean. Hart’s push for funding took nearly seven years to come to fruition. The sky bridge idea bloomed in 2007, when Hart secured funding for the Belo Center, and the Board of Regents approved the project.

“The bridge has always been something that’s been in the back of my head, and we would’ve built it if we had had an extra $3 million when we built Belo,” Hart said.

Severine Halls, senior project manager in UT System’s Office of Facilities Planning & Construction, said the original building plans incorporated the sky bridge.

“We completed design for the Belo Center and the KUT facility with the engineering necessary to ensure that if the dean was successful in securing funding, we knew exactly where the bridge would connect the two complexes of buildings as was his original intent,” Halls said.

It took several months for Hart to negotiate the Moody Foundation donation, beginning with a February 2013 conversation over dinner with foundation trustee Ross Moody. The college received the funds for the bridge, scholarships and renovations to the Jones Communication Center.

Completed in 1972, the Jones Communication Center is marked by the prominent cement grid design of CMA. Nearly 40 years later, the Belo Center architects aimed to construct a complementary structure, according to architecture professor Larry Speck.

“In the design of the new building, they did a good job of having some dialogue back with the old one but not feeling that they had to slavishly replicate something from before,” Speck said. “Dean Keeton [Street] is a big street, and it’s kind of a divider, but I think the bridge will be helpful in knitting the two buildings together both functionally and visually.”

Speck said the bridge might help alleviate both vehicular and pedestrian traffic at Dean Keeton Street and Guadalupe, as well as Dean Keeton Street and Whitis Avenue, two of the busiest intersections on campus.

“Hart would like to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people within those two separate complexes to interact with each other, and he’s smart to do that,” Speck said.

Bridge construction will result in detours for both drivers and pedestrians on Dean Keeton Street. For street closures, Christopher Johnson, development assistance center manager for the City of Austin, said the city requires project engineers to provide a detailed traffic control plan that is then reviewed by the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Obviously, they’d want to minimize the construction to either as few lanes or as short a time as possible,” Johnson said. “But for something like that, there’s no way around it. You cannot safely build something like this and still have a road functioning.”

With a semester left as dean and a year until the bridge is to be completed, Hart said he looks forward to using the bridge as a member of the faculty.

“I will love walking across it and looking at it, even though I won’t be the dean at that time,” Hart said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version. 

International relations junior Sarah Wilson studies at the Flawn Academic Center on Monday afternoon. Student Government representatives have proposed extended hours for both the Flawn Academic Center and the Belo Center for New Media.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Students looking for late-night study spots when the Perry-Castañeda Library is packed may be in luck. Student Government representatives proposed two resolutions requesting more late-night study options on campus.

The first resolution calls for extended hours at the Belo Center for New Media. The Moody College of Communication building located on the corner of Dean Keeton and Guadalupe streets is currently open until 11 p.m. If the resolution is implemented in the building, it may be open until 2 a.m. all week.

The second proposed resolution is in support of opening the Flawn Academic Center on a 24/7 basis. This semester, the FAC is open until midnight on weekdays until finals week, when it becomes open for 24 hours.

The recent proposals do not mark the first time SG has worked to open a building on a 24-hour basis. In 2012, an SG resolution led to the PCL opening for 24 hours, five days a week. The PCL has continued to operate with a 24/5 schedule beginning around the midway point of each fall and spring semester.

“Gate counts definitely rose after the institution of 24/5; in 2011 (prior to 24/5) we had 1.67 million visits to the PCL, and that number was over 1.71 million last year,” UT Libraries spokesman Travis Willmann said in an email. 

Currently, other late-night study spaces on campus include: the Texas Union, open until 3 a.m.; the Student Activity Center, open until 3 a.m.; and the PCL, which is open until 2 a.m. On Oct. 12, the PCL will begin operating on its 24/5 schedule.

Ruben Cardenas, Moody College of Communication representative for SG, said the Belo Center for New Media would be an added convenience for students who live far from the PCL.

“We thought this is an area close to West Campus, close to the dorms, that students utilize,” Cardenas said.

The FAC would serve the same purpose, according to SG President Kori Rady.

“There’s always a need for more collaborative study space on campus,” Rady said. ”The PCL is often filled to the brim, and this gives students another place to go.”

Rady said the proposal for extended hours at Belo is still in the beginning stages, but Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, agreed to look over the plan and discuss it with college officials.

He said he hopes to implement the 24-hour FAC plan within the current school year.

“It’s simply just a funding issue,” Rady said. “They have every capability of doing it 24/7 FAC. We just need more money.”

The cost for extending the FAC hours is $81,790, according to Rady. Taral Patel, author of the resolution and University-wide representative, said SG representatives working on the proposal are seeking funding from the Student Services Budget Committee and the President Student Advisory Committee.  

According to Willmann, the 24/5 PCL schedule is funded by University Athletics. He said it costs more than $40,000 to keep the building operating with its current schedule.

Rady said security measures have not been fully explored at Belo since the plan is still in the works, but, at the FAC, there are options for student security guards, a hired security guard or UTPD patrol in the surrounding area — the current security method during the 24-hour schedule for finals week.

“We need consistent 24-hour places to work,” Patel said. “I understand the PCL does this during midterms and during finals, but people have plenty of tests scattered in between year round.”

Belo Center project manager Pawn Chulavatr and workers install a newsbox outside of the Belo Center Thursday morning. The newstand will house six newpapers, including The Daily Texan, The Dallas Morning News and the Austin-American Statesman.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Notebook in one hand, morning coffee in the other, students can catch up on the news as they walk along Dean Keeton. Thanks to a new newspaper stand installed outside of the Belo Center for New Media, 8 a.m. classes just got more bearable.

The single newsstand, installed Thursday, is located at the main entrance and will hold six newspapers including The Daily Texan, The Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman, but the other three have not been determined by the College of Communication

Although Texas Student Media typically provides The Daily Texan’s news boxes free of charge, the Lawrence Group, the Belo Center’s architects, designed the newsstand, communication dean Roderick Hart said. The college is still awaiting the project invoice, although the estimated cost is $6,000. 

In September, the college denied a request by Wanda Cash, clinical journalism professor and assistant director of the School of Journalism, for Daily Texan news boxes in front of the Belo Center, where the journalism school is located. The college, which was aiming for a LEED silver certification, cited the boxes could create potential environmental concerns. The college later reversed its decision, planning to have a news box by November, after taking bids on designs to match the building. In December, the college told the Texan the box should be installed by the start of class Jan. 14.

Dean Hart said the college will also provide about 10 copies of the city newspapers for free daily.

“The whole point is to celebrate journalism,” Hart said. “We’re going to make them available at no cost, so students can pick them up in the morning. The idea is to try to stimulate people’s interest in newspapers.”

Cash said the news box will fit the needs of the students and the college by providing newspapers at the Belo Center, while maintaining the building’s sleek look with the newsstand.

“It’s great that the college responded to student concerns,” Cash said. “It will be nice to see a collective presentation of papers with one standard looking news box, fitting with the style of the building.”

Journalism lecturer Mark Morrison, who previously served as a Daily Texan editor and as a Texas Student Media board member, said the news boxes are long overdue.  

“It’ll be nice to see the boxes have a permanent home in the building,” Morrison said. “I’m glad to hear they’re finally getting around to installing the boxes after the delays last semester.”

Journalism junior Olivia Suarez said the newsstands are a good addition to the building, if the entrance stays clear of newspaper litter.

“As a journalism major, I feel it’s important to have easy access to the news, whether it be print or virtual,” Suarez said. “I remember last semester, I was confused as to why the CMA had plenty of boxes, while Belo lacked them. As long as the front area remains clean, I don’t see any inconvenience to their installation.”

When architects Earl Swisher and Thomas Lekometros received the commission to design the College of Communication’s Belo Center for New Media, they were challenged to design a building that would respect UT’s campus aesthetic and respond to the unique demands of teaching “new media.”  But “new media” is by its very nature shapeless and impermanent — the very opposite of the substantial, heavy architecture that characterizes the University campus.

In an age when the most celebrated architectural showpieces convey impermanence and shapelessness  — think Frank Gehry’s curvaceous Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, or Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s sci-fi Blur Building in Switzerland — tempting is the idea that a building devoted to “new media” could be as undefined as its namesake. Swisher and Lekometros resisted this temptation, and the UT campus is ultimately better for it.

Instead of a beguilingly shaped landmark, the Belo Center is an outwardly sober box that takes its inspiration from the existing College of Communications complex — some of the least celebrated architecture on campus.

Unlike “new media” websites and smartphone apps, buildings can’t simply be deactivated when no longer useful. Some of the campus’ most beloved historic buildings no longer serve their original purposes, but their significance on campus is not diminished because their form fails to follow. The Tower is no longer a library, and Waggener Hall now welcomes philosophy students instead of those studying business. Because the needs of the university change, buildings must be able to change too, and this is easier when the shape and character of a building isn’t completely wedded to its original purpose.

Thus, the Belo Center seems less concerned with making an architectural statement than with getting along with the buildings and spaces around it. The concrete grid and metal fins that shade the building’s windows establish a relationship with the Jesse H. Jones Communications Center building across, as do the new building’s flat roof and overall boxy shape. The careful positioning of the Belo Center in relation to the existing communications complex establishes a spatial relationship between the two that is readily apparent to anyone waiting in the upper-level elevator lobbies. Though the building is separated from the rest of the communication school by one of the least pedestrian-friendly streets on campus, a visual connection still ties the two together. A pedestrian skywalk, currently undergoing feasibility studies, will also help connect them.

Inside, the classrooms and common areas, which feature natural light and materials that invite touching, are a far cry from the dark, sterile spaces found even in some of campus’ newer buildings. The design attention lavished on these spaces imbues the building with a sense of importance that emphasizes the nobility of teaching and learning. The playfulness of the riotous interior color scheme makes the building’s exterior feel repressed in comparison to the exterior. That difference may have  been better appreciated by the faculty and administrators on the design committee than the students who use the building. An earlier design that was scrapped in deference to the Campus Master Plan would have mediated the sobriety of campus architecture with the incandescent promise of “new media” by housing KUT’s studios in a separate, more freeform building located between the new Walter Cronkite Plaza and Guadalupe Street. The spatial relationship between these contrasting building forms could have  enlivened the public space between the buildings. However, the freeform shape meant to house KUT was ultimately rejected by the university committee assigned to oversee the building’s design.

Despite the architects’ reverence for existing buildings, the Belo Center doesn’t look like the buildings that the UT campus is known for. Limestone and red roof tiles are nowhere to be found. And while Jester Dormitory proves that lacking these elements alone are not enough to make a building great, the Belo Center distances itself from the architectural heart of campus by eschewing forms and materials that help define the image of UT in the minds of people around the world. If the various committees that regulate the design of new buildings on campus, and the Campus Master Plan — the intent of which is to,  “preserve our traditional public spaces and extend that sense of harmony …in a way that serves our architectural heritage” — insist on honoring UT’s historic campus, they should focus on buildings that contribute to the campus’ unmistakable sense of place, rather than those that purposefully stand apart from it.

Finke is an associate editor and architecture and urban studies sixth-year from Houston.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to categorize the lack of news boxes [in front of the Belo building] as completely unacceptable. The Belo Center is, after all, the new home of one of the best journalism programs in the country and I think decision-makers in the College of Communication and the dean’s office need to strongly consider the type of message being sent to aspiring journalists (print journalists, in particular) who view the school as their guide to the future of journalism.

I do understand the desire for a sleek, aesthetically pleasing building and plaza that is beautiful, functional, and worthy of the college’s prestigious programs (after all, who can resist the draw of color-coordinated trash cans?) — but at some point, common sense must prevail.

I’m fully aware that there are news boxes across the street and around nearby corners, but I doubt that chemistry students have to leave the classroom and cross the street to get beakers for class experiments, or that students in the music building must trek elsewhere for a music stand or practice room. The journalism students in the College of Communication deserve the same easy access to the tools of their trade, as do the faculty, staff, and students working and learning in the new Belo Center.

I also completely understand the college’s desire to implement a policy forbidding fliers and other materials from being posted around the plaza. I’ve been on the unfortunate end of this policy before when trying to display banners for the Magazine Club. But while I respect the need for structured rules, I think there is a huge difference between peppering Belo with fliers seeking roommates and placing a newsstand in front of the building.

Torrie Hardcastle 
Editor-In-Chief, Orange Magazine 
Senior, journalism and radio-television-film

The Daily Texan tried to not take personally the College of Communication’s banning of our newsstands from the new Belo Center’s front lawn. The word “ban” is hotly contested — in an email to The Texan, College of Communication dean Roderick Hart wrote “For the record, there was never an intention to ‘ban’ the boxes.”

But inarguably, our iconic, orange Texan newsstands were not, and are still not allowed on the Belo Center’s plaza. Initially, the College of Communication’s administrators justified their decision to keep the newsstand at bay by claiming they attract trash. Then, yesterday, after the Texan published a story about the banning, the College of Communication revised the original policy. The college’s administrators still won’t allow our newsstands on their side of the street. Instead, the Belo Center’s architect is building a specially-designed box from which our readers may pick up the most recent issue.

The episode left us equal parts outraged and amused. In the best light, the College of Communication, where the School of Journalism resides, perhaps inadvertently overlooked the importance of making the more than 100-year-old, official college daily of The University of Texas at Austin readily available at every street corner on campus.

The Daily Texan survives as a vibrant print product because it meets people where they are. Students pick up the Texan to read in passing periods, at dining hall breakfast tables or on bus rides home. Daredevils read it as they walk to class. In an age when access to unlimited information opens to college students the outside world but isolates them from one another, The Daily Texan provides a selection of stories and information, a browsing experience,that connects a football player to a physics graduate student. The Texan and its manner of circulation on campus reflect the reality that we all live, work, eat and learn in the same space.

No question, we agree with and commend any efforts to discourage unsightly trash-accumulation. And we even acknowledge that printed editions will face obsolescence in our future, and be replaced by online ones, although we still contend the gluttonous online reading experience can exhaust a person. And there is a special pleasure in a Sudoku puzzle completed with a pencil over a sandwich and coffee, while sitting in your favorite spot on the mall.

Overall, we think that our print edition and our newsstands have a few more good days left in them and would appreciate if the College of Communication didn’t distinguish itself as among the first to shove us off the public square.

After initially prohibiting news boxes at the Belo Center for New Media, the College of Communication announced it has recognized the demand for The Daily Texan and will place a box on-site sometime in the future.

Roderick Hart, College of Communication dean, said in an e-mail that the college has asked its architect to design a Daily Texan newspaper box for the center and choose where on the site the boxes should go. Hart could not provide a timeline or a sense of when a news box would be added.

The Daily Texan printed an article about the college’s stance on news boxes Thursday, after which there was a strong online response. Thursday morning, a blog about the issue was posted on media institute Poynter’s Web site. Posts on and followed later in the day.

“I know the dean heard from dozens of former Daily Texan editors [Thursday],” Mark Morrison, adjunct lecturer and a board member for Texas Student Media, said. “They’ve all been in touch with his office and communicating their concern.”

Last week, the College of Communication said it would not place any news boxes in front of the Belo Center for New Media, which houses the School of Journalism. Assistant Dean Janice Daman said the news boxes might attract litter, and interfere with the college’s plans to achieve a silver certification. The certification is a rating that classifies a building’s environmental performance and is issued by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. In response, Glenn Frankel, director of the School of Journalism, said it was a mistake that the building that houses the School of Journalism did not have the campus’ student newspaper available for immediate access.

Hart said he was not sure if the College of Communication would add news boxes or news stands for publications other than The Daily Texan.

“We have to maintain pedestrian traffic flow above all else,” Hart said.

Jalah Goette, interim director of Texas Student Media, the agency in charge of all of UT’s student-produced media, said it is prepared to add another Texan distribution point. She also said she hopes the College of Communication will work with Texas Student Media on the design of the box and that it would include the masthead that is on every other Texan news box. Goette said it is important the box be identifiable as a Texan box.

On Thursday afternoon, Hart sent an e-mail to The Daily Texan, saying the College of Communication would install a news box.

The College of Communication tweeted, “there was some confusion about why copies of The Daily Texan weren’t available.” Both the tweet and Hart said the college never intended to ban the news boxes.

But Daman said in an e-mail to journalism professor Wanda Cash the policy was decided previously.

“The Belo project team decided long ago that there would be no news boxes – Daily Texan, Apartment Locators, the Onion – on the Belo plaza or sidewalks,” said Daman in her Aug. 30 e-mail.

“The Dean knows this, too.”

Morrison said he is glad to see the college decide to put a news box on-site.

“It should not have come to this, but better late than never,” Morrison said.

Frankel said he is also pleased with the decision.

“I thought it was a mistake to not give students and faculty access to The Daily Texan and newspapers here in the Belo Center,” Frankel said. “To me, it was not important whether those boxes were inside the lobby or outside, just that there is access for our students.”

Morrison said he hopes more news boxes are added besides the Texan, like other newspapers around the state and campus publications.

While UT-Austin does not have an official rule or policy on news boxes, the University requires they not interfere with on-campus traffic.

Photo Credit: Marc Morales | Daily Texan Staff

As the Belo Center for New Media works to gear students up for the new digital age of journalism, some faculty and students are concerned it is leaving the print age behind.

Citing environmental concerns, College of Communication administrators have stopped The Daily Texan from placing a news box in front of the $54.8 million Belo Center for New Media. Janice Daman, assistant dean of the College of Communication, told the School of Journalism last week that no news boxes are allowed in the Belo plaza or on the sidewalk. Since opening in August, the University’s newest building has housed the School of Journalism and the departments of advertising and public relations.

Mark Morrison, adjunct lecturer in the School of Journalism and a Texas Student Media board member, said he was disappointed and wants a Texan news box in front of the center.

“I think it is outrageous,” Morrison said. “We should make it as easy as possible for our students and faculty to get access to the Texan. The Belo Center is, after all, the home of the journalism school.”

The issue arose when Glenn Frankel, director of the school of journalism, asked journalism professor Wanda Cash to look into why there were no Texan boxes in front of the Belo Center for New Media. Daman informed Cash of the college’s policy regarding news boxes in an e-mail.

Daman said the building is environmentally friendly, and the presence of news boxes raises concerns that litter, clutter and debris could gather around the building.

The Belo Center for New Media is striving to achieve the “silver certification” from U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Signage, banners, plaques and other forms of paper have also been banned from being posted outside the building.

“It’s not a news box issue, per se,” Daman said in an e-mail to The Daily Texan. “That is important to understand.”

In her e-mail to Cash, Daman said the project team rejected a number of requests for material to be posted in front of the building in order to maintain “the look of the plaza.”

“You’ll notice that even the trash cans’ color was specifically chosen by the architect,” Daman said in her e-mail to Cash.

Daman also said there are Texan boxes nearby, one across Whitis Street at the Kinsolving Residence Hall and another across Dean Keaton Street.

Morrison said faculty and students at the Belo Center for New Media should not have to cross the street to pick up a copy of the Texan.

Frankel, director of the school of journalism, said he thinks it is a mistake not to put news boxes in front of the Belo Center for New Media.

“This is the School of Journalism and the College of Communication, and newspapers remain one of the fundamental platforms and vehicles of journalism,” Frankel said. “I would like our students to be exposed to journalism and all of its manifestations here — and that includes newspapers.”

A former editor-in-chief of the Texan from 1969 to 1970, Morrison said he did not face similar issues during his time as editor, but problems with placing news boxes outside of buildings have become more common recently. Last semester, the College of Communication did not let The Daily Texan place news boxes in front of the CMA building in the Walter Cronkite Plaza.

“I mean, to think that the Walter Cronkite Plaza does not have a Daily Texan newsstand, Walter would be rolling over in his grave,” Morrison said.

Cronkite, an icon in the industry of broadcast journalism, got his start at the Texan.

Susannah Jacob, editor-in-chief of the Texan, said she was disappointed there are no newsstands in front of the Belo Center.

“We make every effort with every issue to stop any confusion between The Daily Texan and trash,” Jacob said.

The Daily Texan, UT’s official student newspaper, has roughly 75 news boxes on campus and 100 off campus. The Texan also has about 175 off-campus distribution locations where business owners receive bundles of the Texan and then offer free copies to their customers.

The UT System’s policy on solicitation allow the individual universities to decide where news racks or news boxes can be located. While UT-Austin does not have a specific policy or rule, a spokesperson for Facilities Services said UT does not allow the location of boxes and stands to interfere with foot and vehicle traffic or building access.

Printed on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 as: No Texan news boxes available outside Belo

An online tour of the upcoming Belo Center for New Media allows students to virtually explore the facility and preview KUT’s new home.

The tour went online at the beginning of February and unveils the inner-workings of every main room of the center, which is expected to be completed by the summer and will open its doors on Nov. 1, according to the College of Communications’ website.

The Belo Center for New Media will house the five College of Communication departments, student services, organizations and will also be the location of the KUT Public Broadcast Center, Austin’s National Public Radio affiliate.

The Broadcast Center will be housed in an adjacent two-story wing of the Belo Center that will showcase KUT’s studios from the inside out, said KUT spokeswoman Erin Geisler.

The tour displays KUT’s new glass-walled, 72-seat performance studio which will be located at street level, allowing the outside public to watch the 300 annual in-studio performances.

The KUT wing will feature a floor plan that will bring together all employees in one cooperative area, Geisler said.

“KUT is currently scattered throughout three floors of the CMB, so moving to the Belo Center will allow everyone to work together and collaborate more,” Geisler said.

A community engagement room will also be part of the wing that will allow different organizations to hold their meetings, events and workshops there.

“From the university’s perspective, this is providing a gateway to this end of campus,” Geisler said. “From our perspective, KUT is serving the community and the University, so moving into the new building will help us connect more to the community that we serve.”

Michael Wilson, development director for the College of Communication, said the opening of the Belo Center will enable the college to provide departments and programs with the needed space to enhance teaching, learning and social interaction across communities.

“Collectively, our new complex will be the type of facility the University of Texas is best known for and will allow us to continue to recruit the best of the best in students and faculty alike,” Wilson said.

KUT’s broadcast center will make the College of Communication area a cornerstone on the western end of campus, Wilson said.

“With the open view of KUT’s studios you can also expect the college to be a beacon for those who appreciate the most trusted source for news, information and the Austin, Texas music experience,” Wilson said.

Printed on, February 7, 2012 as:Online tour gives peek of Belo Center

Juan Martinez stood with his back firmly planted against the wind, hands stuffed into the pockets of his gray hooded sweatshirt. Martinez, a construction worker on the Belo Center for New Media, kept a positive attitude, basking in the midday sun after a cold, cloudy morning. “You don’t understand, I’ve been out here since 5:00 a.m.,” Martinez said. “It can always be worse.” Austin experienced a midday low of 32 degrees Tuesday with winds upward of 25 mph, according to The Weather Channel, and a hard freeze was expected last night. While Martinez stood guard by the barricades blocking off the north side of Whitis Avenue from traffic, other construction workers ate lunch in their cars, the hum of their exhaust indicating a reliance on electric heat. For some of the workers, the cold is far from the worst of their worries. “It’s the wind,” said Javier Castelan, another construction worker on the Belo project. “The crane isn’t operating today because it can really be scary being up there with the wind whipping around you.” The wind affected students getting to class as well. According to a statement from Austin Energy, gusts of wind of up to 40 mph caused citywide power outages. Power was restored to all customers by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. “The only good thing is there’s the prospect of snow or ice that can cancel school,” said biomedical engineering sophomore Marissa Ruehle. For Kristin Schroter, a procurement and payment services staffer, the cold offers no benefits. “There’s an overall malaise when it gets cold,” she said. “I don’t want to exercise. I don’t want to move at all.” Austin’s projected forecast for the remainder of the week promises more cold temperatures, with highs in the mid-30s and lows in the teens, but little evidence of possible precipitation. By the weekend, the temperature is expected to rise to highs in the low 60s with sunny skies. In Dallas, frozen streets and high winds have shut down much of the metroplex. Local weather alerts warned Dallas residents of winter storms, hard freezes and a wind chill until at least Thursday. Much of the country, in a strip stretching from Oklahoma to Maine, is also facing severe snow storms this week.