At UNC Chapel Hill today, the buildings and grounds committee of the university's board of trustees was humming along with standard business, signing off on the hiring of architects and approving designs for proposed buildings.
And then, a screeching halt when the group began to review plans for a large new parking deck near Kenan Stadium.
This is a place that takes aesthetics seriously and has a real taste for red brick. This new, 755-space parking deck to be built where the Ram's Head parking lot is now would be built not with brick but with precast concrete. Those are pre-made slabs of concrete in a variety of light colors, either flat-surfaced or textured.
Why? The price is generally right. In this case, the $28.4 million project would be at least a million bucks more if brick was used rather than precast concrete, and, as planners pointed out, this project has a tight budget with no wiggle room.
But trustees weren't exactly, um, how should we put this - enthralled - with the idea of a massive new building all in concrete plunked in the middle of this heavily-brick campus. In fact, a coming expansion of Kenan Stadium and its football center will be done heavily in brick.
As trustee Nelson Schwab put it:
"With its material and color, I just think it's going to stick out."
This is no small project, so trustees signed off on the design only after creating a contingency plan. If the university, in going out to bid on the project, happens to get lucky thanks to these tough econonic times and gets a winning bid considerably under budget, campus planners may shift gears and infuse at least some of the new parking deck's facade with brick.
Once construction begins, it will probably take about 16 months.