UT regents approve $80 million College Park project at UT-Arlington

ARLINGTON -- The University of Texas System board of regents unanimously approved an $80 million mixed-use development at UT-Arlington that will create more student housing while revitalizing downtown.

UTA's College Park project got the green light with a 9-0 vote Thursday.

"It is a huge step forward for Arlington and the university," said UTA President James Spaniolo, adding that the partnership with the city is unprecedented.

Mayor Robert Cluck and Spaniolo presented a united front to the regents' facilities planning and construction committee in Austin on Wednesday. The committee reviewed their request to increase the project's cost from about $67 million to $80 million.

"I think it is outstanding," Cluck said. "It's going to be a huge success for Arlington and UTA. It's going to be dynamite."

The price went up because 81 apartment units have been added, according to the meeting agenda. The university will use $71.5 million from revenue bond proceeds and $8.5 million in money left over from other projects. The city has agreed to contribute up to $18 million toward an 1,800-space parking garage. First Baptist Church of Arlington donated about 1.5 acres for the project.

Spaniolo said construction of College Park could begin as soon as July. The project is expected to be completed by July 2012, according to the agenda.

The board's action also officially named the development College Park. The name reflects the interconnection of the east edge of campus with the city's Center Street Park and Trail project, according to information included in the agenda.

College Park aims to transform downtown into a hip college area to serve a growing number of young people who want to live on or near campus. Only about 15 percent of UTA's 28,800 students live on campus, according to the university.

Spaniolo said the project shows how UTA is transitioning from a commuter school to a residential campus.

College Park, along with the $78 million Special Events Center under construction, will make the area a destination. The events center, across the street from the planned garage and residences, will be home to UTA's basketball and volleyball teams and serve as a venue for concerts and commencement ceremonies.

"We really are developing a sense of a campus community," Spaniolo said.

DIANE SMITH, 817-390-7675