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Campus creates plan to foster aesthetics, efficiency

April 9, 2010

For anyone who likes, or doesn’t like, the look of the UW-River Falls campus, now is the time to voice their opinion.

The elements of the master campus design plan, according to the UWRF self-study Web site, are: building locations, roads, walkways, green spaces, parking, storm water management, utilities and aesthetic qualities. The campus needs this master plan because the Board of Regents will not approve any major projects beyond the HHP and South Fork Suites Phase II without the completed plan. A big part of the master plan is the projected campus enrollment, which is currently set at approximately 8,000 students by 2017, according to the UWRF growth agenda, compared to the current population of approximately 6,500.

JRR, along with Paulien and Associates and River Architects, are the consultants working on the master plan. JRR is the lead on the project. They are a nationally recognized firm, according to Mike Stifter, director of facilities management. A project kick-off meeting was held in early March, with stakeholder interviews held March 22-25. On the afternoon of March 22 the stakeholders were given a tour of the campus. March 23-24 included interviews with stakeholders, students, faculty and staff, with a public meeting and open house held the night of the 23rd. On the 25th the chancellor’s cabinet met with the consultants to hear what had been said by the stakeholders.

The consultants will return in late April to present the preliminary findings regarding the amount of building space and land the University will need to support the projected population. In September, the master planning consultants will be sharing three concept plans illustrating the organization of the campus — where future buildings could be located, future roadways and sidewalks, plus new parking facilities. The campus will then have to select the best ideas of the three concept plans that will then be consolidated into one “master plan” for the campus. The campus hopes to have a rough draft established around Jan. 2011 with a final draft in place one year from now.

This spring and summer, the consultants will spend time in a data gathering phase, reporting out their observations and conclusions at the end of April and Sept. Then, based on that sharing and discussion, they will then form a draft accordingly in December or January, with a final draft expected next spring.

“Their goal is to create a framework for the campus that provides an initial roadmap for the next one to five years with, hopefully, some opportunity for quick success and momentum-building that can then set the stage for years five to 15 and beyond,” Stifter said.

The plan will generally have a 20 year focus since there are some very complex issues to focus on. Stifter said the campus has real potential to be successful in this environment with the right leadership and a good plan.

The parking issue is one that is being addressed in the plan, according to Dale Braun, campus planner.

“We’ve heard loud and clear, and we’ve known it for a long time, that we need more parking,” Braun said.

The needs assessment will be based on a number of things, such as the projected campus populations by time and day of the week, including both resident and commuting students, faculty and staff, visitors, special program participants and athletic and performing arts spectators. According to Braun, the campus in approximately month three of a 12-18 month process. Braun said this campus hasn’t had a completed master plan since 1968.

“I think it’s time,” Braun said.

With the projected growth of the campus, residence halls will also need to be reviewed. According to Matt Fitzgerald, chair of the UWRF facilities development committee, there will be a push to attract commuting students and those who have unfinished degrees.

Some of the input was pleasing to hear, according to Braun, such as students reporting that they like the residence halls. Students also said the residential characteristic of the campus should be maintained.

“We also heard that students like the natural feel of the campus,” Braun said. “They wouldn’t want to see us be like an urban campus where you have buildings stacked up on each other.”

One of the main concerns going into the planning process is the need to focus on accessibility for the physically challenged campus users, according to Braun. That means more accessible parking in the middle of campus, a few more elevators, especially in the residence halls, and paying a little greater attention to basic services in buildings, such as restroom access.

Fitzgerald said one little corner pocket of the plan will be looking at the possibility of organic farming on campus. This would include the buildings, classrooms and equipment needed.

“We’re one of the biggest organic farming states in the nation, so it just seems like a natural fit for our campus,” Fitzgerald said.

There is a Facebook group titled “The Future of the UWRF Campus” for students, faculty, staff and community members to join to voice their input on how the campus should grow and change over the next 10-20 years.