VU master plan anticipates 20 years of growth

2012-09-20T18:00:00Z 2012-09-21T20:09:31Z VU master plan anticipates 20 years of growthPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com
September 20, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Officials unveiled a 20-year master plan for Valparaiso University Thursday that is designed to accomodate an enrollment expected to grow by 50 percent to 6,000 students.

"It's a very exciting time for the university," President Mark Heckler told a group who heard the evening presentation at Harre Union. "What will the place be and the needs be in 20 years? How will we use the land and the resources we've been given?"

For those who question whether the plan is a pipe dream, Heckler said they only have to look at the 1980 master plan. Everything proposed on that plan has become a reality, and he said the university board of directors felt somewhat pressured to prepare for what the future might bring. Now they have enthusiastically embarked on making this plan a reality, he said.

Heckler called the plan "a bridge between the past and the future."

"The master plan will contribute to the long-term social, economic and environmental prosperity of the university and the surrounding community. Its principles position the university to meet unknown future needs while respecting our Lutheran ethos," he said.

The plan was put together with the help of Smithgroup JJR over a 16-month period and was adopted earlier this year by the board of directors. What to build first and where the money will come from are questions yet to be answered.

Neal Kessler, principal campus planner for Smithgroup, said that early on in the planning process everyone rallied around the idea of reversing the trend of expanding the campus toward the east and to begin developing a closer connection to the city's downtown. This goal will be facilitated with the development of the former Porter hospital site and the area around it.

The hospital site is proposed to be used for an athletic field house and other athletic facilities, including a soccer stadium and softball/recreation fields. If the university obtains the property between LaPorte Avenue and Lincolnway east of Garfield Avenue, the plan proposes a scenic plaza and other student-oriented housing and commercial development to improve VU's presence on Lincolnway.

The plan calls for new housing, a parking garage next to Harre Union, a cluster of science, technology, engineering and math studies buildings, expansion of the law school and more landscaped open spaces. Connecting all the buildings will be an extensive system of paths that would cause the elimination of some segments of road, but McIntyre Court will remain.

Vehicle access to the front door of the chapel entrance will be kept, but new parking is proposed. The goal is to encourage pedestrian and bicycle movement throughout the 320-acre campus. The corner of Sturdy Road and U.S. 30 is proposed as a pond with landscaping if the restaurant property can be obtained.

New housing for the fraternities and sororities is proposed that would consolidate them along Union Street. Kessler said a lot of discussion involved the residential housing on campus, which he said is not up to modern standards. Whether to build new or renovate the existing buildings will be a decision for the board.

Jon Hoffman, Smithgroup associate planner, said the plan is designed to be flexible, breaking up everything into small projects that can be done as demand and resources -- the two major unknowns -- allow. After all the projects are done, the campus has room for more expansion, he said.

In the end, Hoffman said, "It will be up to the campus and the community to implement the plan. The community will never grow and thrive unless the university is able to grow and thrive."

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