BYU Wilkinson Center's east entrance gets a facelift

Published: Thursday, May 16 2013 10:10 p.m. MDT

In this 1999 file photo, thousands listen as President Gordon B. Hinckley speaks at the rededication of BYU's Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center. Demolition crews began removing an east-facing portion of the Wilkinson Center on Wednesday May 15, 2013. The canopy and the drop-off area it sheltered were part of the student center's original design when the building was constructed in 1964.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives

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PROVO — The canopied waiting area that has welcomed students to campus since 1964 greeted its own retirement party Wednesday morning.

Demolition crews began removing the canopy on Wednesday to make way for a new traffic circle and covered drop-off area, part of an ongoing campus renovation that will continue through 2015. The closure of East Campus Drive and the creation of a new pedestrian plaza connecting the Wilkinson Center to the J. Reuben Clark Law Building, which should be completed in August, are just the first phase of the project.

Because the canopy must carefully be separated from the rest of the building, crews expect to spend several days on the demolition.

The Wilkinson Center will remain open during the demolition, and services located on the east side of the building — including the hair salon and post office — remain open to students. Doors on the east side of the building have been blocked off for safety.

The Wilkinson Center's history of renovations — the most recent took place in 1998 — serves as a reminder of the campus's constantly changing nature, BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead said.

"Universities are kind of living organisms," he said. "They evolve, with little bits of construction here and there."

The first phase of renovation will also reconfigure some of the parking on the east side of the J. Reuben Clark Building. The parking lot is now open for use but will be repaved later as the first phase nears completion.

Work on the first phase of the renovation began on May 4 with the permanent closure of East Campus Drive, a throughway that previously bisected the campus and separated the law building, on-campus housing and other buildings from the bulk of campus. Three days later, crews demolished a pedestrian bridge that had connected the law building to the Wilkinson Center since the mid-1970s.

Crews have also demolished the Oliver House, a small building on the east side of the law building that housed BYU's performing arts management team, to clear room for additional parking. Performing arts management has since moved to the Hinckley Center. The Oliver House, which BYU acquired in 1964, had housed the language training mission and university relations in the past.

After the first phase, continued renovations in 2014 and 2015 will add similar drop-off zones in front of the Hinckley Center and the administration building. Detailed maps and closure schedules are available online at campusdrive.byu.edu.

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