Texas Wesleyan gets construction underway

Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

Texas Wesleyan University is kicking up a lot of dust these days, working on a $6.5 million reconstruction of the university’s “front door” at East Rosedale Street and Vaughn Boulevard as it approaches its 125th birthday next year.

Construction is underway on a new short driveway that will lead north into the campus from Rosedale and line up with Vaughn. The 83-foot-high Canafax Clock Tower, reflecting pool and promenade sidewalks, being built on the drive, are designed to frame the university’s entry.

Also underway at the intersection as part of the program: construction of new offices for The Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, now on Bailey Avenue onFort Worth’s West Side, the renovation of a historic firehouse and streetscape improvements.

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The university is tweaking the plan, dubbed the “Rosedale Renaissance.”

Not included in the original plan, the university recently purchased two strip retail centers on East Rosedale west of Vaughn, including one that houses the Texas Wesleyan Bookstore and a Subway sandwich shop.

The university originally planned a business accelerator in the renovated firehouse, but now intends to put that in one of the strip centers, Frederick G. Slabach, Texas Wesleyan president, said in an interview.

It also plans to move its Glick House Community Counseling Center into the same strip center. Those two could fill the currently vacant center and help fulfill Texas Wesleyan’s push to create a critical thinking hub, Slabach said.

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If the accelerator and counseling center don’t fill the one center, “we already have a line of folks who want to be out here,” he said. The university now plans to move its art program into the firehouse.

In the retail center with the bookstore and restaurant, the university has interest from restaurants and wants to increase the number of food service establishments around campus, Slabach said. This fall, the university gave a Subway gift card to all students living on campus.

“We really want to support the local retailers,” Slabach said.

All of the construction is slated to be complete in June 2015, Slabach said. It coincides with a reconstruction of East Rosedale, from U.S. 287 – a major access point – east to the campus that’s underway.

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Bennett Benner Partners is the architect of record and Thos. S. Byrne of Fort Worth is the general contractor.

The construction projects are the latest in a litany of capital improvements the small university has been making. It’s completed $3.4 million improvements in the last 12 months, said Brian Franks, the university’s executive director of facilities development and operations.

It’s working on a $1.7 million renovation to Dora’s, its dining hall in a mid-century modern building, with completion scheduled after the holidays.

Texas Wesleyan, which has an enrollment of 2,600, wants to bring more students on campus and is nearing its 2020 goal of having 500 students living on the campus. It wants to remain at its current 1,800 undergraduate enrollment, but is looking to increase its number of graduate students.

Slabach hopes the Rosedale Renaissance, once complete, will narrow the number of responses the university’s consultant received when it asked people around the school to identify the school’s front door.

“They got about six different answers,” he said. “That means you don’t have a front door.”