By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ There is no large welcoming gateway to the University of Connecticut.
There is no arch or fence or cobblestone road to let visitors know they have left the surrounding community and arrived on campus.
But that may be changing.
Officials at UConn have begun work on a master plan they say will revamp the school’s infrastructure and give the university a unique look and feel.
“This project is absolutely critical,” UConn president Susan Herbst said this week. “It will shape what the university is going to look like for really the next 100 years.”
The school last year hired architect Laura Cruickshank away from Yale to be its master planner. The Board of Trustees this week approved a $2 million planning budget and officials are interviewing firms this week that are competing to help develop the master plan.
It is being formed in large part, officials said, to help guide the spending of $1.5 billion allocated by the Legislature in the Next Generation Connecticut project.
The plan will outline everything from the placement of new buildings, to the formation of new traffic patterns, to the creation of an architectural theme that will pull the campus together, Cruickshank said.
“The master plan will help to prioritize and say, `this is what we need to do first, this is what we can do second,”’ she said. “This is a big responsibility. I get it. I live here. These are my taxes. So, we want to spend that money well and spend it thoughtfully.”
A final draft of the master plan is due next December. In the meantime, Cruickshank and her team will gather input from the entire campus community.
Among other things, they want to identify the space needs for every division of the university. They will look at future needs for buildings and classrooms and the use of existing facilities. They also will create a new transportation plan for parking, walking and transit on campus.
Even planned development that isn’t part of the Next Generation project, such as the siting of a new on-campus hockey arena or baseball stadium, will be part of the master plan, Cruickshank said.
It also will look at land development, the school’s carbon footprint, and how the school fits in with the surrounding community.
“One of the things we need to look at is how to separate foot traffic from vehicle traffic,” Herbst said. “The campus is not that big geographically, but sometimes it seems that way. There needs to be a way to draw things together more, to make it a more intimate place for people.”
Cruickshank said the goal is to make the best use of the campus’ 10 million square feet of space and decide where, when and how the school should expand.
“It’s not knit together as well as it can be knit together,” she said.
“That’s why we’re doing this, because it will give us the chance to do it better.”
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