AUSTIN -- Taking a look across downtown Austin from the 16th floor of the University of Texas tower, you might expect the room with a view to be prime real estate, but no one looks out of the window anymore.
"Grand outside, hollow within” is a headline on an article in UT's student newspaper, The Daily Texan. The article revealed more than half of the floors in the iconic UT Tower are empty.
Daily Texan reporter Bobby Blanchard’s story showed 17 of the tower’s 32 floors are unoccupied.
"I was definitely surprised to find out half the tower was vacant. It was surprising to me, just because it’s the most iconic building on campus,” said Blanchard.
Back in January, Blanchard filed an open records request to get the breakdown of how the tower's rooms are used.
The university moved occupants out to adhere to fire safety rules, according to Dr. Gerald Harkins, associate vice president of campus safety and security.
"We think we did a smart thing. Anytime you can protect life, protect the people, and that’s the smart thing to do. And that’s the decision we made,” said Harkins.
Harkins said buildings require multiple exits in case of fire. From the 13th floor up, there is only one stairway. He said it's been a process over the past few years trying to find other space on campus for occupants.
Floors 13 to the top are vacant, with an exception for occasional use on the 27th floor.
"The important thing to understand is that when the tower was built, this was a library, and that’s where we stacked books,” said Harkins.
They moved books out as other campus libraries opened. Now, the top floors of the tower are back to storage, though they're working to figure out what to do with the space.
Go here to read Blanchard’s Daily Texan article.