River Campus drivers may now traverse the scenic Wilson Boulevard from the Elmwood Avenue entrance to the Ford Street entrance for the first time in more than ten years.

The reconfiguring of the road was one of many changes to the Bausch and Lomb Riverside Park completed this summer.

Designers decided to close the road to through traffic ten years ago in an effort to make the campus more “unified with the waterfront,” according to current university architect Paul Tankel.

In contrast to what happened, he says, “when the road was closed, it all felt abandoned. The sidewalks were a mess and the road was dark.” Officials wanted to change this and revitalize the area.

In addition to the reconnection of the two severed ends of Wilson Boulevard, other changes include raised crosswalks to slow traffic and the conversion of parking spaces from perpendicular to parallel. Improvements to the park include picnic tables, interpretive signage describing the history of the sight, increased lighting and more open space.

“There was an impetus to create more of a park-like setting,” Tankel said.

In an unusual arrangement, the road is owned by the city but maintained by the university. The reconstruction was funded by grants that stipulated the money be used solely for the beautification of the park site.

“[It] is not like this is money that’s been deferred from other improvements,” Tankel said, averting criticism that this was money poorly spent.

Student reaction, however, has been mixed.

The most frequent complaint in response to the changes has been the elimination of 100 parking spaces along the road. Officials decided to switch to parallel parking after recording numerous accidents involving cars backing out into traffic.

Others would rather have seen the parking left alone.

“The benefits of the beautification improvements don’t overcome the lost parking spaces,” junior Karen Raupp said. Tankel assures that new parking will be implemented at Park Lot within the month.

Director of Public Relations Robert Kraus said that UR was just buying time with the old parking. “Those spots used by UR parkers were, as I understand it, essentially ‘on loan’ from the city,” he said.

Tankel agreed. “This wasn’t a conscious effort to say, how can we have less parking for students,” he said.

All projects are scheduled for completion by Meliora Weekend.

Questions remain among students, though. Safety for runners is a top concern.

Freshman Lauren Carlile is one student who still has reservations about the river site. “I would like to go running down there but I would like for my safety to be guaranteed,” she said.

Tankel said that he feels things are improving. “We think we’re creating a safer situation out there,” he said.

While improvements to the campus side of the river are essentially complete, officials are optimistic that the other side will be vastly improved as well. Kraus points to efforts to develop a new hotel and restaurant across the river.

Until then, students are reaping the benefits from the alterations. Fraternities lauded the easier access to the their buildings during unloading.

Take Five Scholar Joan Doherty, like many, enjoys the convenience. “It’s a lot more efficient getting from one end of campus to the other,” she said.

The construction on the road and park was completed on schedule and before students began arriving en masse. Kraus was pleased to point out that the plans also stayed on budget.

Now that all the alterations are in place, it remains to be seen whether the university will change entrenched opinions about the safety and viability of Riverside Park.

Bobkoff can be reached at dbobkoff@campustimes.org.



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