Drag renovations proposed by Sinclair Black, encouraged by new UT organization

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When students think of the Drag, they don’t think of a pristine shopping area, but Student Voice is a new organization planning to change that.

Architecture junior Barron Peper is a member of Student Voice, a new organization awaiting approval from the University, which is focusing on the Drag renovations as its first project.

“We want to kind of build it up quickly and get a lot of momentum and make it happen as opposed to stretching this out over a long period of time,” Peper said.

Peper said the people and culture are already working to make this happen. He said the pedestrian environment already exists, but the infrastructure does not support it.

About 15 years ago, a committee of people who live and work around the Drag collaborated with architect Sinclair Black and made plans to renovate the street, but insufficient funding prevented the improvements, architecture professor Lawrence Speck said. The committee’s plans included widening sidewalks and adding trees and shade, Speck said.

“Of course, some things have changed by now — the West Campus is way more dense — a lot more students and a lot more pedestrian traffic coming this way, and it’s all the more crucial that these improvements get done,” Speck said. “It’s not safe, and it certainly is not comfortable. … It’s not a good pedestrian environment. It’s not a good retail environment.”

The Drag renovation project has recently seen a renewed interest. Speck said the University has been talking to people in the city, and some of the city’s new staff members are interested in addressing the problem.

Speck said there is experience throughout the country that street and sidewalk improvements cause people to feel like they are in a quality environment.

“It’s weird that besides such a prestigious university there’s [the Drag],” architecture and marketing senior Catalina Padilla said.

Some merchants support this project while others are apprehensive.

“If we put in more trees and make it look nicer, I think it will invite more people to come onto the Drag. … I’m all for it, this idea,” Tyler’s employee Laura Boyce said.

C. Jane owner Julie Copp said she is against these renovations because widening sidewalks would decrease parking availability and the construction would prevent customers from seeing her shop window. She said she would rather see the sidewalks power-washed and potted plants added.

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Potential Drag renovations debated".