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Herbst Plans To Hire UConn Master Planner

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A dorm in South Campus at UConn in Storrs. Photo by WTIC's Patrick Lowndes.

A dorm in South Campus at UConn in Storrs. Photo by WTIC’s Patrick Lowndes.

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By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The University of Connecticut’s president says it’s time to consider major changes in infrastructure and to develop an architectural plan that would create a more cohesive campus.

In an email to the university community last week, Susan Herbst said she plans to hire a master planner and architect to take charge of the project, which she said will help shape the school for decades to come.

The idea, she said, is to create a campus that links aesthetics with ideas such as environmental sustainability, historical preservation, energy efficiency and state of the art research facilities. It also should be easier for visitors to navigate the campus, she said.

That likely will mean some major renovations and new buildings, she said.

“We don’t simply want to build attractive buildings; we seek to create a coherent, beautiful and useful campus that enhances strategic intellectual endeavors and our most precious pedagogical ideals,” she wrote.

In an interview with the AP Wednesday, she put it in simpler terms.

“We’re a little city, and it needs to feel like a city where the buildings, the landscape and everything works together, especially for students and faculty,” she said.

The school last updated its master plan in 2006 to reflect $2.3 billion in new construction. Herbst said those improvements were vital, but more needs to be done if UConn wants to compete with the nation’s top state schools.
Herbst pointed to a math and science building that leaks and needs better laboratories to help recruit top-flight scientists.

“I don’t think we should be satisfied with mediocre facilities or campus planning,” she said. “It’s partly about aesthetics and history, but the bottom line is about a return on investment. You can’t grow a university and have it be more valuable to the state or the nation unless you have the facilities that make that possible.”

Herbst last year set up a campus appearance committee, comprised of faculty and staff, which has been responsible for changes such as eliminating modular classroom buildings and improving landscaping.

The group recommended changes large and small, such as creating a welcoming “front door”; enhancing the Fine Arts Complex; and improving the parking and outdoor seating around the UConn Dairy Bar.

Herbst said that was just a start. A master planner, she said, would look at those recommendations and other upgrades already on the drawing board, including a new $40 million basketball training center and major renovations to hockey, baseball, softball and soccer facilities.

Herbst expects to have the position filled by October, but said no timetable has been set for completing a strategic plan.

She also won’t put a price tag on the plan, saying the planner will have to think through what is reasonable and how the school will be able to give a good return on any new state investment.

State Rep. Roberta Willis, a Lakeville Democrat and co-chair of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said lawmakers had not been told of Herbst’s plan and were looking forward to hearing more about it.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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