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University reveals new master construction plan

By Marissa Piccolo
On April 17, 2014

Last week on April 9, university officials introduced a first look at UConn's new Master Plan for 2014. The Master Plan is an outline that will guide the physical development of UConn for the next 20 years, and aims to help it grow as a flagship university. Architectural, design, and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) will be joining on as partners. SOM has been involved with major development projects at other colleges and universities such as Yale, Stanford, the University of North Carolina and the Ohio State University.
Lisa Gould, director and co-leader of SOM's Integrated Education, Science and Health division launched an initial assessment in January that will conclude by the end of the year. "We have spent the last several months talking to people, learning about UConn, and gaining an understanding of what's important to those who work and study here," said Gould to UConn Today, "and we're ready to move into a nine-week alternative phase where we'll begin to look at real options for the future. Over the summer we'll develop and refine our vision, and then we'll come back in the fall with a draft of the overall master plan."
SOM hopes to create a design that supports the key components of UConn's academic plan, which are excellence in research and scholarship, undergraduate education, graduate education, teaching effectiveness and public engagement. Examples of this are spaces that allow people to come together and collaboration.
"Our goal is to make campus more cohesive," said Doug Voigt to UConn Today, another executive member of SOM. "We want it to be friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians and we want to utilize all the spaces that already make it special."
Both sustainability and logistics of traffic are being taken into account.
UConn's Director for University Planning Beverly Wood says that throughout this initial assessment phase, the three main themes that have emerged for the plan are excellence, pride, and investment. "In the near term, we will be focusing on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) facilities, both research and undergraduate, and student life projects such as residential, recreation, health and wellness, to keep pace with potential expanding enrollments," Wood said.
For the long term, the Master Plan will be sure to assess the land holdings of UConn is expected to hold in the future and how it will affect day-to-day campus life. "The first challenge is to develop a plan that reflects the best of everyone's vision for the campus of the future. We have a diverse community with many ideas, and our planning challenge is to have a common vision that reflects everyone's aspirations," said Wood. "Beyond the planning, the challenges ahead include implementing the plan including the construction of major new facilities while keeping the campus operating at the same time. We will be feeling the growing pains for several years, but the campus will enter a new era when the projects are completed."
Currently, the major problems with UConn's design is an aging infrastructure that will need to be rebuilt, and lack of organization and clarity on campus. The design must improve the experience of campus both functionally and aesthetically.
Wood emphasized that the Master Plan will be better if the UConn Community participates in its development. There will be two town hall meetings in the Konover Auditorium before the semester ends, on April 29 at 3 p.m. and April 30 at 1:30 p.m. At the beginning of the fall semester, a draft of the master plan will be then presented to the campus community.
"We are looking forward to hearing everyone's ideas, and when today's students come back as alumni in 20 years hopefully they will see many of those ideas built out on the campus. This is a unique opportunity to influence the future of UConn," said Wood.


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