I-35 construction beside campus nearly finished, Collins on track to open in August

The Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center is set to be finished by fall of 2023. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Luke Lattanzi | Staff Writer

As students return to campus for the spring semester, various construction projects on and around campus such as Interstate 35, Collins Residence Hall and the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center are nearing their completion.

The construction on the section of I-35 that runs through Waco and the Baylor campus is in its final stages. The parts of I-35 intersecting 4th and 5th street as well as 11th and 12th Streets near campus remain an active construction area, according to a Presidential Perspective sent out by the university Jan. 19.

The construction will focus on the 4th and 5th Street intersection with the installation of new traffic signals. Once they are installed, they will flash red for a few days before a permanent signal timing is established to allow drivers to get used to the new flow of traffic. The Presidential Perspective further advised that, due to the construction, students should be extremely careful due to the high volume of traffic.

Over the next few months, construction crews will also complete the remaining projects from MLK Blvd. to 17th Street. The Presidential Perspective said this will bring the installation of traffic signals, signage, pavement and sidewalk work, lane markings and crosswalks and other utilities.

Georgetown junior Peter McGuinness said the remaining construction makes Waco a hard city to navigate.

“The construction has made my commute more difficult, mostly due to last year biking across the intersection on University Parks,” McGuinness said. “I’d say with more lights and open roads it will definitely be better.”

Collins Residence Hall — notoriously dubbed “Crusty Collins” by students — is on track to reopen in August 2023. Students in the class of 2027 will be greeted with a brand-new main entrance from 7th Street, renovated rooms, a faculty-in-residence suite, and a new central lobby where students can gather, according to the BaylorProud website.

In addition to these renovations, former Collins residents have been invited to share their favorite experiences they had while living in the residence hall. These submissions will be literally engraved into the renovation itself.

Former residents can also purchase a custom brick, which will help to line the residence hall’s new entrance from 7th Street. The purchase of a brick will be counted as a donation to Baylor’s Give Light campaign.

Progress has also been made on the Paul and Alejandra Foster Basketball Pavilion, which will serve as the new home for Baylor’s men and women’s basketball teams.

As of the latest monthly facility update, the precast concrete has been set in the concourse area of the pavilion. Joe Thompson, the pavilion’s senior project manager, said various utilities, such as plumbing and electricity, are being installed.

“Lot of activity going on. Looks like a big ant hill out here right now,” Thompson said in the facility update. “Working everything from putting in underground plumbing and electrical to, obviously, you see the steel going up.”

The pavilion is scheduled to open to the public in beginning the spring semester of 2024.

The construction of the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center continues to be on track. The 120,000-square-foot facility is anticipated to open in time for the fall 2023 semester, according to Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications and an executive lead for the Hurd Center’s construction.

“The Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center is gonna be truly transformational for Baylor University,” Cook said. “This building will serve as the front door to our campus and serve as a beacon of light for the nearly 100,000 people who travel down I-35 every day.”

Most of the exterior work for the Hurd Center has been completed. The focus of the project is now toward the building’s interior.

“It may seem like work is slowing quite a bit, but actually most of the work is going to be happening within the interiors of the building over the next several months,” Cook said.

The building will not only serve as a welcome center for visitors and prospective students, it will also serve as a leisure area for current students.

“We envision that it will become another living room for current students, very similar to the function that the SUB serves today,” Cook said. “We’ve intentionally designed the building to have a lot of flexible meeting space to where it can accommodate a seated banquet for nearly a thousand people, all the way down to small conference rooms that can be reserved in the evenings.”

Cook also said the completed building will have a Peet’s Coffee shop, as well as a new fan shop where people can buy the latest Baylor spirit apparel.

Over the summer, university staff will begin to transition to the facility, which, according to Cook, is being referred to as a “soft opening.” This will then be followed by an official grand opening ceremony on Sept. 8.

Much of the Hurd Center’s construction also involves symbolism. Cook said the four pillars that span from the bottom to the top of the building are meant to symbolize Baylor’s founding, its Illuminate strategic plan and Christian mission.

“Those four pillars relate to the four columns at Independence. But they also represent the four pillars of Illuminate, our strategic plan, which relate to our Christian mission,” Cook said. “Transformational undergraduate education, research and scholarship that’s signified by impact on the world, and also our world-class performing arts and athletics.”