UNC Charlotte's long-awaited new entrance has opened for traffic, though a ribbon-cutting will be held in the fall when most students return to campus.
Broadrick Boulevard, now the primary way to enter and exit the campus, is a new road off University City Boulevard about 750 feet closer to uptown than the old entrance.
The traffic signal from the old entrance has been moved to the intersection of Broadrick Boulevard and University City Boulevard (N.C. 49).
Eight 20-foot-tall brick pylons, four on each side of Broadrick, signify the seven disciplines, or colleges, UNCC offers, plus the graduate school.
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A 30-foot brick pylon, symbolizing the entire university, stands near the beginning of the boulevard and supports the long, low rectangular university sign.
The pylons, which are backlit at night, each have a glass panel that one day may be replaced with art. The pylons should be finished in about three weeks.
The $3.2 million project was designed by Site Solutions and is being constructed by Charlotte-based Sealand Contractors.
Besides the new entrance and pylons, the project includes expanding the water line entering campus from 8inches to 12 inches to meet growing demand from UNCC's new buildings; moving the traffic light; repaving part of N.C. 49; and adding a traffic circle on Broadrick that will funnel visitors on several different routes through campus.
The new entrance and accompanying traffic circle were necessary to handle increased campus traffic, said John Fessler, UNCC's director of capital projects.
“We had a major circulation problem going from 15,000 to 20,000 and probably 30,000 students in the near future,” Fessler said. “This design allows greater capacity, and the traffic circle directs people without them coming to a standstill.”
But it's more than just bricks and pavement, said David Dunn, a 1980 alum who is vice chancellor of university relations.
“The new entrance clearly transcends its physical presence,” Dunn said. “We strongly desire to be an open campus where visitors are welcome to performing arts, gardens, new buildings, athletics facilities and everything else we offer. This new entrance signifies the openness that we desire to have.”
To make the campus even more welcoming, especially to first-time visitors, a large mounted map of the campus has been installed alongside a small cutout on the right side of the road, just before the traffic circle, so visitors can map their route before entering the circle.
Facilities planning director Peter Franz says an electronic sign is planned for public announcements. The sign should be installed near the wooded area northeast of the traffic circle in the next few months.
Tim Ernst, UNCC student body president, thinks the new entrance makes a much-needed statement about the university, which at 22,500 students is the fourth-largest in the UNC system.
“I think it's great. I think it will raise the profile of the university in the community,” Ernst said. “We finally have an entrance deserving of a major research university.”