Church seeks neighborhood input on MTC expansion

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Options for expanding the Missionary Training Center in Provo are the focus of discussions the Church is having with residents of the neighborhoods nearby.

The Missionary Training Center has proposed expansion to the south or northeast of the current MTC grounds. (Illustration by James Gardner)
The Missionary Training Center has proposed expansion to the south or northeast of the current MTC grounds. (Illustration by James Gardner)

Seventeen options derived from earlier neighborhood meetings have been reduced to two: expanding east across 900 East onto the athletic field, or expanding south onto space that now houses the BYU laundry facility.

MTC director Richard Heaton said at the Friday meeting that the number of missionaries at the Provo MTC peaked at 2,800 during the summer of 2012. Increases since President Thomas S. Monson announced missionaries could serve at a younger age started a surge that will result in  a 2013 peak of 7,800 new missionaries in training.

The present MTC is the flagship training center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and can house 3,000 missionaries. A new MTC in Mexico will be able to house 1,000 missionaries. That leaves 3,500 missionaries who need housing, Heaton said, which the Church is scrambling to build.

“The challenge is that it has to be done fast,” Heaton said.

MTC neighbors favoring the south expansion say its compactness makes it a better fit for the needs of the missionaries and community.

Julia Oldroyd, a resident in the area who attended the Friday meeting, said she thought the south expansion “would be easier for the missionaries, and … less expensive to maintain. It just seemed like a more logical expansion.”

The south expansion would include an approximately 60-foot tall, four-story housing unit on the west side of the campus and seven-story buildings for teaching purposes, each about 100 feet tall, on the east side, according to Bill Williams, lead architect for the project. Some residents complained that this plan made the areas too compacted and was too similar to plans presented last year. Williams highlighted the differences in the plans.

“These are the heights we need to accomplish the square footage of providing … about 134 square feet per missionary,” he said. “This (height) is about a third less from what we had before” when a nine-story tower was part of a recently scrapped reconstruction plan.

A benefit of this plan is the campus would be unified. “This creates the opportunity to create that enclave (of learning and teaching), if you will,” Williams said.

The northeast expansion would have five-story residential buildings and more buildings of three and four stories. Unlike the south expansion plan, the focus of this option would be keeping an unobstructed view of the Provo Temple and formalizing open space.

“This could be something very elegant,” Williams said, “like you would see in Washington, D.C.”

Though the buildings would be shorter, the campus would be less pedestrian friendly, and campus would be split east and west by the 900 East roadway. More crosswalks would be a possible solution.

George Frey, a resident in favor of the northeast expansion, said the northeast expansion would fit the needs of the community better. He said it was more visually appealing, with an openness and vastness highlighting the temple that excited him.

Frey, and Jared Oldroyd, an area resident, favor the south expansion and agree that the neighbors’ primary interest was involvement.

“I’m not too concerned about which option they choose,” Jared Oldroyd said. “I was just glad that they involved everybody and got our input. … I think the growth of the MTC is a good thing for community.”

Even though most people favored the south expansion in a straw poll, the northeast expansion, Williams said, would be significantly cheaper.

Construction costs were not discussed, but the south option would involve demolishing existing buildings and relocating the current BYU campus occupants of those buildings.

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