Fifth Street and Fountain Mall renovations are still set for completion before Baylor Homecoming in October, according to Keven Kehlenbach, Assistant Vice President of Construction Services.
“We have no issues with the schedule, even with the rains earlier in the summer,” Kehlenbach said.
When regular classes ended in May, students had become accustomed to walking around what they referred to as the “Bearlin Wall,” separating the northern and southern ends of campus.
“I actually didn’t expect it to still be going on,” said Decatur sophomore Jennifer Welch. “I feel like it’s an inconvenience to everyone on campus.”
Welch said she scheduled her classes thinking they would be close together, but she didn’t think she would have to go all the way around the fence to cross the street.
According to Kehlenbach, construction services has a phased approach of opening sections of Fifth Street as they’re completed, moving eastward toward the circle on Speight.
When the wall is finally torn down, a brand new Fifth Street and a shiny 46-foot by 61-foot fountain will stand in its place.
The project has been made possible by an $8 million gift from Baylor alumnus Dr. Thomas J. Rosenbalm. The fountain will be called the Rosenbalm Memorial Fountain, in honor of his parents.
Despite rumors and concerns about Homecoming floats getting around the fountain, Kehlenbach said that the renovation allows for the maximum size float to drive the route and have a few feet of space left on either side.
“We did a number of studies with our design team,” Kehlenbach said. “We know what the widest trailer would be for the parade, and all of those fit in the parameters of our design.”
Float drivers will round the fountain on one side or the other, depending on instructions they are given. In reference to the Freshman Class Council’s Homecoming bear balloon, Kehlenbach said it will have a harder time maneuvering around downtown than around the new fountain and trees on campus.
There is no alternate parade route in case construction is not finished.
“We project that the project will be opened on time, no impacts to the parade,” Kehlenbach said.
Though construction is an inconvenience for students now, Kehlenbach said the new Fifth Street will be more pedestrian friendly than it was in the past. He said it will no longer look like a normal city street, but will be open and inviting for students to use as a walking mall.
Emergency vehicles will still be able to drive down Fifth Street if needed.
According to Kehlenbach, construction has not gotten in the way of emergency vehicle access and construction workers have stayed hydrated and in the shade to avoid health concerns.
“Construction can be intrusive, but we appreciate everyone’s patience,” Kehlenbach said. “[We] look forward to the opening as we get closer to Homecoming.”