U’s master plan envisions a more beautiful campus

by Tricia Michel

Once every 10 years, University officials get together to draw up architectural dreams for each of its four campuses.

The result – a thick, spiral-bound document full of diagrams and watercolor paintings – is called the master plan, and planners use it to shape the look of each campus.

Architects and planners have already started brainstorming for this decade’s revision meetings, which will take place next year.

Capital Planning and Project Management director Harvey Turner said the existing master plan for the Twin Cities campus is too general. He said he hopes next year’s revision will include more specifics.

He said the University needs to take a different planning direction concerning the campus environment. He said the University should use 4 percent to 5 percent of its capital budget toward pedestrian paths and landmarks, as well as giving certain parts of campus, such as the Arts Quarter, a distinguishable look.

Landscaping and strategic planning are improvements that will help create a campus that illustrates a strong sense of place, Turner said.

“I would like to see the University as a stellar expression of what a top-notch University looks like,” he said.

Turner would like to replace the traditional thick documented master plan with a loose-leaf notebook full of tangible ideas.

“The master plan is too philosophical and written to the people who need to make decisions. It’s not a useful tool,” Turner said.

Projects on the 1996 master plan addressed traffic congestion, a new student union and on-campus housing.

Landscape architecture professor Clint Hewitt is familiar with the dedication it takes to create and maintain a master plan. Hewitt was the Master Planning Office associate vice president when the 1996 master plan was drafted. He said a master plan is an essential tool.

“It’s the vision you have for campus, and you don’t reach that vision by accident,” he said.

The master plan is a flexible guide, Hewitt said, and its only downfall is that people do not always commit to it.

The master plan for the Twin Cities campus was created under 11 guiding principles based on instilling a real sense of community, increasing the mix of uses on campus, including housing and promoting architectural integrity.

Hewitt has since retired from the Capital Planning Office.

He said he will not be involved with the planning process of the upcoming master plan, but he will keep track of new developments on campus.

“I’m always supportive and I’ll help if I’m asked. I’ll be curious, I’ll have an opinion and I’ll probably share it,” he said.

Hewitt said more campus development would be great if there is a way to fund it.

“Any way to make the campus more attractive is a good thing,” he said.

He said the campus environment and landscaping always seem to have difficulty getting funding.

Master plans guide many college campuses into the future.

Michigan State University recently finished revising its master plan, which looks ahead to 2020, construction superintendent Dennis Hansen said.

Hansen said funding has been a problem but the University is in better shape than it was five years ago.

“We need a master plan because otherwise we could end up like some places that look awful,” he said.

Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien will be responsible for proposing planning ideas for the upcoming master plan.

She said she hopes the next master plan will engage the community, create a growing vision for the campus and further develop the campus environment.

“It’s important we develop standards on how to utilize and sustain the University,” she said.

Turner said he will present his ideas to the Board of Regents Facilities Management Committee in March.