Students returned to school on Monday to find the empty lot near Snidecor Hall a little emptier after the university cleared roughly a dozen trees from the area.

The university hired Giant Beaver Tree Service to clear trees from the lot to make room for a long-anticipated expansion of Snidecor Hall, one of the university’s oldest and least earthquake-safe buildings, said Stewart McDaniel, public events manager for the Dramatic Arts program.

McDaniel said the expansion will include a large courtyard and more space for classes and lectures.

“This gives us a lot of new facilities that we’ve been wanting,” McDaniel said. “The addition will probably triple our student access space.”

Project Manager Frank Castanha said the plan is to knock down part of the existing building, make the building more earthquake-safe and expand to the west, adding a multipurpose classroom, a lecture hall, offices and studios for acting, dancing and voice lessons. Snidecor’s renovation and seismic corrections will cost an estimated $12.3 million and will be funded by the state.

Castanha said it is “never a popular thing to remove trees.” However, clearing the trees “is the first step in getting ready for construction to start next spring. The people in the [Dramatic Arts] Dept. are anticipating the expansion. I think this will meet their needs.”

Expanding the drama building is one of three major construction projects scheduled to begin in the next year. Just west of Snidecor, parking lot 23 was also cleared over Winter Break of several trees to make room for a new Student Resource Center, an estimated $24.5 million project that will be funded by student fees. The coming center’s project manager, Ilze Landfried, said the architectural drawings for both the center and Snidecor are complete and the university will be accepting bids from contractors soon.

The center will house outreach programs, Office of Student Life, Campus Learning Assistance Services, a day care service for students and their children and several student groups.

“It’s an attempt to bring these scattered student services under one roof,” Landfried said.

The third project in the works in the area is a 1,000-space parking structure in parking lot 22, west of the Events Center, that will include 15,000 total square feet of office space. Landfried said the parking structure would be funded by parking fees and has an estimated budget of $20 million.