As students returned to UNC Charlotte to find an empty Belk Plaza where the Belk Tower once stood, pictures and sketches of a possible replacement tower surfaced online.
The creator of the pictures; however, says the pictures were only to estimate costs if the university chose to build another tower and they are not a design that has been chosen.
The pictures and sketches show a replacement tower soaring close to the same height as the Belk Tower that is made of brick to match the main entrances to campus.
Chris Gilbert, director of facilities planning, said of the drawings, “There was a sketch… that I did early on that was just thinking graphically and what might replace it, but it is in no way a design that might be eventuality.”
“It was in order to assess what the cost would be if we were to replace the tower with something of a similar scale,” said Gilbert. “But given that were going through this public outreach over the next few months, other ideas will come to the fore.”
After the sketches were complete, Gilbert reached out to various construction companies to find out cost estimates of demolishing the tower and building another tower of a similar size.
“It was purely speculative but I had to have enough information for the administration to give a good idea,” said Gilbert.
As for the cost estimate of the possible replacement tower, Gilbert says it was over a million dollars. A similar amount to what it would have cost the University to repair Belk Tower, rather than demolish it.
“A bit more, but not vastly more than if we were to try and fix the existing tower,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert shared officials were not even sure they would be able to fix the Belk Tower until they were able to see the inside of it.
The university has created the Belk Plaza Planning Committee to gauge community interest and ideas for the Belk Plaza. Gilbert hopes his drawings will not be shown to the committee.
“You don’t want to hamstring committee members and also the public in their brainstorming or their idea process,” said Gilbert. “So if you show something too final, if it just looks that way, then that might dovetail them into a certain perspective on what the quad could be or the plaza could be.”
He added that no construction drawings were completed with the possible replacement tower.
As for now, Gilbert said the plaza should be open in the coming weeks
to foot traffic.
“Draw construction is filling in where the tower had been and paving it with brick and doing repairs to the bricks that were damaged during the demolition of the Belk Tower,” said Gilbert.
The Belk Plaza Planning Committee held it’s first meeting Jan. 19 and will hold the first public forum Feb. 8.
Students, faculty, staff and the Charlotte community are encouraged to attend the public forums to voice their opinions or concerns about the Belk Plaza redesign to the committee.
This will be the first of three seperate public forums.