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New master plan encourages current campus land-use patterns

By Sookhan Ho

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 3 - September 8, 1994

Current land-use patterns on campus should be preserved and reinforced as new facilities are added, according to the new master plan for the university.

The master plan diagrammatically locates the facilities described in the university's Six-Year Capital Outlay Plan (1994-2000) as previously submitted to the state's Division of Planning and Budget. The master plan, approved by the Board of Visitors at its recent meeting, has proposed that the new facilities (totaling 1.9-million gross square feet) be sited primarily in or next to the core area, generally defined by West Campus Drive, Washington Street, downtown Blacksburg, and Perry Street.

In a presentation to the BOV's buildings and grounds committee, Perry Chapman of Sasaki Associates (the consulting firm that prepared the master plan), cited four reasons for concentrating development within the core area. It would maintain the lively, integrated collegiate environment in the core area, retain reasonable walking distances, "minimize the extent to which infrastructural needs would have to be extended to serve new development, and conserve open lands in the periphery."

In addition to land use, the master plan looks at circulation (i.e. road) patterns and physical design of the facilities. The plan addresses seven specific goals identified by university officials: formulating design guidelines and standards for facilities that can be used for future projects, identifying future sites for development and rules for their selection, formulating a transportation and parking strategy, developing a plan and design guidelines for a "clear arrival sequence" into the campus (including gateways, signs, maps, and traffic flow patterns); assessing campus utilities, examining land-use compatibility of campus perimeters, and formulating a master plan for the Kentland Farm property.

In addition to infill projects in the academic and residential areas north and south of the Drillfield, the plan has proposed extending an addition to Newman Library over the Mall "to form a portal into the campus and an architectural bridge to the academic core area north of the Mall." The expansion will house a new central reading room offering dramatic views of the War Memorial and the Drill Field.

The plan has proposed preserving land at the university's western and southern edges and reforesting areas along approach roads (such as Southgate, Duck Pond Drive, West Campus Drive), and portions of land bordering Route 460. The reforestation program would plant native trees on about 100 acres that are currently covered with high maintenance turf grass. University architect Peter Karp said the personal safety of students, employees, and other campus users would be taken into account before reforestation is implemented. "To avoid creating wooded areas that are unsafe, we will involve campus police and others when we work out the specifics of the program," Karp said.

The plan does not propose major changes in the campus road system aside from intersection improvements. The improvements include realigning Spring Road so that it lines up directly with Tech Center Drive at Southgate Drive. The plan anticipates the need to provide 1,800 new parking spaces on campus as a result of population growth and the displacement of existing parking areas by new development. Three parking structures have been proposed, two of which would address needs on the east side of campus.

Karp also briefed the committee on capital projects. Some of the highlights:

* Major Williams conversion: demolition and asbestos abatement have been completed; excavation for the foundation of the new addition is under way. The project--the first residential building to be converted into academic space--is expected to be largely complete by next May.

* Fralin Biotechnology Center: All floors are expected to be completed by October. The project is on schedule for completion next July.

* Fiber Optics Facility: The project is on schedule for completion this October.