The Old International School Building awaits new life. Photo by Eli Kohn.
ERIKA KOVACH | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
Whether they realize it or not, many students have probably heard about some part of the University Gateway Project. This project consists of a variety of construction and development projects intended to help further expand Butler’s campus.
John Lacheta, manager of facilities operations, said that the Gateway Project was formally introduced to campus in April 2022, with the debut of the “Imagine the Possibilities” video at the “Beyond Grateful” event at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
“It started as a way to look at the ‘gateways’ and how we differentiate Butler’s pathways from the neighborhood, which is where the name ‘The Gateway Project’ was coined,” Lacheta said.
The project currently encompasses as many as 20 individual projects. This includes the addition of Levinson Family Hall as well as the construction of Fairview and Irvington houses. Through the project, different ideas for development are researched and then university officials decide where and how funding can be appropriately allocated.
Before the pandemic, the Gateway Project was intended to look into small-scale assets, such as how classroom spaces should be utilized.
Brent Rockwood, vice president and chief of staff, said the pandemic put much of the project’s work on hold, and that it changed elements of the project’s vision moving forward.
“President Danko elevated the stature of that project and really challenged us to kind of think through what we want our university to be for the future,” Rockwood said.
Now, the project has three main goals: supporting the university’s mission, looking at ways to better support the campus community and creating better connectivity to the city and state.
Rockwood said one way that these goals are being implemented is through the creation of community groups such as Midtown Indy and the Friends of 38th Street, which are composed of organizations such as Crown Hill Cemetery, Newfields and the Children’s Museum alongside Butler. Both groups hope to promote community wellness in the Indianapolis area and are often involved in decision-making processes regarding the Gateway Project.
Besides these organizations, decision-making regarding potential projects involves a university team that works closely with President Danko, as well as university leadership and the Board of Trustees.
One of the more well-known projects currently being considered by the university is the repurposing of Ross Hall. While one option for the old building was turning it into a boutique hotel, Rockwood said that may have been wishful thinking due to the building’s cost-prohibitive design. Recently, President Danko also received a $4 million donation to construct a new residence.
However, many students have expressed concern over the current use of funding. Brady Stinson, a first-year political science major, said that these resources could be better used for projects that affect students more directly.
“I think we should be looking at funding for essential areas of campus such as improving parking and residential halls,” Stinson said. “That money could go to underfunded areas of campus and new facilities for all students to use.”
Lacheta said that other “opportunity zones” and projects currently being looked into include apartment-style housing where the current South Campus Apartments are located, the restoration of the North Lawn to a green space instead of the gravel lot and a new athletics training facility located at the south endzone of the Butler Sellick Bowl.
Another building on campus, the old International School Building, has also been a topic of conversation, as it has been vacant since the school relocated to a newly constructed building on Michigan Road. Rockwood said that potential options are still in the early stages and the university is considering renovating, repurposing or recycling the space.
“It was designed to be a school, and it’s very difficult to repurpose that building for anything other than a school,” Rockwood said. “So what our strategy team is doing … is kind of thinking through ways, ‘Well, how can we potentially repurpose that building to fill kind of a need for school?’”
Despite these conversations happening, no decisions have officially been made regarding the Old International School Building.
Lacheta said that their team wants to hear from students about their own ideas and challenges they see on campus. One way this outreach is happening is through student surveys sent through email, such as one about parking sent March 20.
“I hope many students take advantage of this opportunity to provide input into the process,” Lacheta said.