OU tears down Rhyne Hall to expand campus parking
Demolition crews leveled an OU landmark to make way for a new commuter parking area in an effort to address student concerns, according to a university spokesperson.
The demolition of Rhyne Hall, former home to the OU School of Social Work, paves the way for a new 58-space parking lot merging the adjacent lots to the south and east at Jenkins Avenue and Page Street.
Erika Philbrick, The Oklahoma Daily
However, the demolition and subsequent construction of the parking area will force the closure of the small commuter parking lot to the east of the Rhyne Hall location, according to the OU parking services website.
Rhyne Hall was constructed in 1928 as a home for the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, though the building had become dilapidated at the time of its demolition, OU Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman Vicky Holland said.
“We can always use more parking on campus,” Holland said. “The Rhyne Hall location is a prime spot on the main campus and it already had parking areas behind it and to the south of it so it made sense to make it into a parking area as well.”
Holland said the addition of the new lot increases the total number of parking spaces at the area around the demolition site to 219 with around 10 spaces designated for faculty and staff.
“We’re very fortunate to have the space for additional parking,” Holland said. “Every parking lot on campus is a potential building.”
Parking and Transportation Services do not place a limit on the number of parking permits sold per semester, so the additional spots will allow students, faculty and staff access to spots closer to the heart of campus, Holland said.
The addition of new parking spaces on campus is a positive change for the student body, said Josiah Irwin, University College freshman and OU Student Congress representative.
The university needs more parking, especially for commuters, Irwin said.
“Most of the complaints I hear are about parking,” Irwin said. “Tearing down an old building, no matter how iconic, is beneficial to our school body. It’s not like we’re destroying a monument or something.”
The School of Social work moved to the Anne and Henry Zarrow Hall in June 2011, and as much as faculty members love the new building, the demolition of Rhyne Hall is bittersweet.
“Those who were educated in Rhyne Hall have fond memories of the place,” School of Social Work director Donald Baker said. “The building had problems but it was home to the social work faculty and our students for many, many years.”
“I think Rhyne Hall only had two options: go through extensive and costly repairs, or be demolished,” said Monica Alzate, a professor in the School of Social Work.
Alzate said the building suffered from serious problems with its AC and heating systems along with molding and flooding in the basement.
“I do miss the big window in my old office, as well as the squirrels crawling up the tree branches next to my window,” Alzate said.
Baker said the faculty and staff of Rhyne Hall held a going-away party when the school of social work moved to Zarrow Hall this past summer. The party was attended by a large number of alumni and some former faculty, Baker said.
“They wanted to say goodbye,” Baker said.