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Students give feedback on proposed designs for Pit improvement project

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On April 11, 2024, in the student union, students came together to learn about a project to improve the pit. Improvements won't begin for a couple more years.

A common meeting space for clubs and student life since its creation in 1968, the Pit is well known by everyone on UNC's campus. However, the space suffers from poor drainage after rainstorms, which damages the health of the two oak trees that stand in the center.

Replacing the oak trees with new landscapes and fixing the drainage system is a priority for UNC Facilities Planning and Design department, who is partnering with Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects to reimagine the Pit in hopes of making the gathering space safer and more accessible for the community.

“We'll take a chance to look holistically at what we're doing and try to analyze and think about: Is the Pit performing as well as it could? Are there ways to improve it? Are there strengths and weaknesses we can assess?” University Landscape Architect Daniel Widis said

The Pit improvement project is still in the beginning stages, Widis said. Brainstorming began in January and will wrap up around June, when final design plans and results will be revealed to the public. Widis said the project will take multiple years to complete, but there is currently no strict timeline.

The project’s managers presented preliminary designs to the campus community in the Student Union last Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to gather community opinions on potential changes to the space. 

There are three main designs: “Plaza,” “Beach" and “Bridge,” each focusing on a different design purpose for the Pit.

The Plaza proposes the elimination of the submerged elements of the Pit and focuses on adding seating and a canopy of trees. The Beach proposal includes a gently sloped section leading into the Pit while maintaining the sunken aspect of the current setup. The Bridge creates an elevated crosswalk through the middle, dividing the area into two smaller sections.

Each of the designs focuses on improving accessibility while simultaneously resolving the drainage issue.

UNC sophomore Andrew Forbes is an operations coordinator at the Student Union and frequently helps move equipment for events in the Pit. He said the proposal that included a bridge for accessibility seemed promising. 

“Seeing the massive pool of water that forms every time it rains, as well as seeing some of the accessibility issues: If you were to want to go from Lenoir [Dining Hall] to the Student Stores and you're in a wheelchair, you'd have to go all the way around,” he said.

Forbes also said he liked the Beach plan because it has the most open space for student groups to gather.

KMA is a universal design consulting practice that focuses on accessibility and is part of the Reed Hilderbrand-led design team. Josh Safdie, a principal at the practicesaid the listening sessions hoped to solicit community reactions to the ideas created by university administrators.  

Safdie said the project is a bit similar to "Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head," bringing together different pieces and aspects of various designs to make the most feasible plan. 

"Then the design team can take those ideas back and try and bring them together into one team that captures as many of the strengths as we were able to find,” he said.

Students at the forums expressed that they wanted to maintain the community-oriented aspect of the Pit, while also making it more accessible.

“I heard someone say the Pit is where every student walks by in a day,” first-year student Ria Sharma said. “And so it is definitely the center of campus and I wouldn't want it to feel any different or disconnected from what UNC feels like right now.”

 First-year student Naina Mishra said growing up in the Triangle, the Pit has always seemed like the heart of campus and a central place to the University. 

“I think that the most important thing would be to keep its charm and to keep the nostalgia associated with it,” Mishra said.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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