The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Campus expansion requires demolition of faculty homes

SMU professor John Wagner’s rental home on Fondren Drive will soon be demolished to make room for the university’s expansion.

Children run from yard to yard, the smell of burgers grilling fills the neighborhood, and front porches on Fondren Drive are equipped with occupied rocking chairs. Residents meticulously trim hedges and tend to landscaping, pausing to chat with neighbors who stop by for a friendly hello.

SMU faculty and staff members make up this close-knit community east of campus, where they’re able to live close to work and send their children to Highland Park schools. Living in a neighborhood they normally couldn’t afford, the SMU employees say they enjoy the opportunity to immerse themselves in the SMU culture.

But, much to their disappointment, several families will soon move out of their SMU-owned homes to make room for new additions to the campus.

“Just the quality of life is like Tom Sawyer. It’s like Mayberry. It’s safe. It’s a little piece of heaven here,” said John Wagner, a geology professor at SMU. Wagner and his 12-year-old son are both devastated to be leaving the neighborhood. They, along with several neighbors, are required to move out by Dec. 31.

SMU will be taking the houses back so that construction can move forward under the Centennial Master Plan, requiring demolition of the homes to make room for a new parking lot.

The construction will eliminate a section of the 3000 block of Fondren Drive, which is directly east of campus. SMU faculty and staff solely occupy the homes on this block, and pay low rental rates on SMU subsidized housing.

In February, Harold Simmons and Annette Caldwell Simmons donated $25 million to The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. The gift will fund a new building on the east side of campus near Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall, which was also funded by Harold and Annette Simmons when they donated $20 million in 2007.

The Centennial Master Plan, which details building plans for SMU from 1997-2015, shows where new buildings are to be built on the northeast side of campus. Proposed construction for Harold Clark Simmons Hall, along with another building near Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall, will eliminate parking in the area. The developing site, which will become the Simmons Quad, spans the block between Ownby Drive and Airline Road from east to west, and between University Boulevard and McFarlin Boulevard from north to south.

According to Philip Jabour, associate vice president of the Office of Planning, Design, and Construction and University Architect, lost parking will be replaced by a temporary lot.

“Short term we’re going to be building a parking lot on the northeast corner of Airline and McFarlin. It’s about 15 lots. Some of them have homes, a couple of them are already demolished,”
Jabour said.

Plans for what the lot will be replaced with in the long term have not yet been made, but SMU has an idea for the area. SMU President R. Gerald Turner spoke briefly on the subject to the Student Affairs Leadership Council.

“There will probably be five or so academic buildings, a parking garage and probably intramural fields,” Turner said.

The area that these buildings will cover currently consists of homes, all owned by SMU. According to President Turner, the details for this construction will be in the 2015-2025 master plan. The current Centennial Master Plan shows that they plan for these buildings to be in the block between Dublin Street and Airline Road from east to west, and between University Boulevard and McFarlin Boulevard from north to south.

For the construction of the parking lot, the five houses on the west end of the 3000 blocks of Fondren Drive and McFarlin Boulevard will be demolished. The other homes on the blocks will remain standing for the time being.

SMU Real Estate Management and Leasing informed the tenants of these homes on May 20 that they would be required to move out by Dec. 31. While some of the tenants were able to relocate to other SMU subsidized houses, others were not so lucky.

Martha Lozano, wife of SMU Spanish professor Alberto Pastor, said that her family was disappointed when they were told they would have to move. They consider their quaint rental house, a stark contrast from the large two-story houses typical of Highland Park, to be home. Their 8-year-old son has lived in the same residence on Fondren Drive since birth.

“The main reason we are here is so we can send our kids to Highland Park School District,” Lozano said, speaking for her neighbors who also have children in school. Lozano said she and her neighbors were fortunate to have the housing from SMU, because many of them would not be able to afford any other property in the area. Lozano’s family was one of the few able to relocate to another SMU-owned house on Fondren, but she fears the stay will be short-lived due to imminent construction.

In describing construction plans for the future, President Turner gave a brief history on SMU’s property rights to explain the university’s difficulties in expansion.

“The Caruth family gave us everything from Lovers Lane to Northwest Highway; Central Expressway to Preston Road. In other words, University Park was given to help fund the university, so the university would sell it and use that money to build buildings and operate the school,” Turner said. “They sold it by the acre; we’re buying it back by the square foot.”

Wagner, with the deadline approaching, is still unsure of where he will move in December. He’s not eager to settle for a neighborhood that doesn’t meet the standards of his community on Fondren.

“It’s a very close neighborhood,” Wagner said. “Family picnics, tailgates for football games. It’s really almost an idyllic setting. And they’re going to put a parking lot.”

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