Small University, Big Growing Pains
In the wake of St. Edward’s University’s growth and development, neighboring residents have felt growing pains. Without any plans to stop, St. Edward’s is facing the rising tensions head-on to make peace with its neighbors.
When President George R. Martin was inducted in 1999, he began to plan drastic changes for St. Edward’s University’s future with a ten-year master plan in mind; he saw a potential for growth. Since 1885, St. Edward’s University has taken on a variety of different roles: a state charter, a university, a progressive co-educational college, a college for adult learners, and what it is today — a university with 23 international partners that seeks to serve students from all walks of life.
Recently, the operations building on St. Edward’s Drive has been a hot topic for Sherwood Oaks residents. Many residents have protested its construction with stroller protests, signs on their fences, and other demonstrations. One resident shares the general feeling of the neighborhood.
“Well it just kinda felt like they were making this street into a back alley, so it just felt a little dis-respectful,” said Joe Farley, who’s lived on the corner of St. Edward’s and East Side Dr for over 20 years. Farley also stated that they had previously seen versions of the Master Plan that included the entrance to the operations building coming from South Congress Avenue.
Some St. Edward’s athletes have been targeted by angry neighbors, especially those who practice close to the street where the university is building the new operations building. This includes St. Edward’s baseball players, who have begun to experience repercussions from local residents regarding the increased traffic on St. Edward’s Drive.
“He [a disgruntled neighbor] vandalized a guy on the team’s car when he kept parking in front of his gate, and [he] had a huge argument with the coaches when he thought too many baseballs were ending up in his yard. Last year, he actually shot water balloons at me while I was walking to my car,” Gable Whitacre said. Whitacre is a catcher for the St. Edward’s University baseball team.
The nature of university development, at least at St. Edward’s, means a flexible master plan that accommodates changes that are relevant to the campus community, according to Mischelle Diaz.
The growing student population, expected to soon reach 5,000 students, has pushed the university to work on its latest campus master plan that will guide the next 10-20 years. The planning team in charge of the master plan held meetings throughout March where students, faculty and neighborhood residents were able to gain insight on the incoming development.
Kit Johnson, the university architect, said the campus administration wants the Master Plan to meet the growing challenges facing the university. Along with the new operations building, the plan includes a new apartment complex, and renovations to Main Building and Holy Cross Hall.
Some members of the community felt mislead, due to a previous version of the Master Plan showing the entrance to the Operations Building being on South Congress Ave. That master plan is no longer available. Since St. Edward’s is a private institution, under city code, it is not required to notify residents of new building plans nor is it subject to public information requests.
With a master plan that could take up to 20 years to complete, it is likely the Master Plan will be subject to change again, but, hopefully, St. Edward’s University can devise a system of informing residents to prevent future confusion and anger.