Stephen Rugg, vice president for administration, presented a draft update to the Urbana Campus Master Plan at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Urbana-Champaign Senate. Rugg told senators that the plan is being updated to integrate a variety of facility-related planning efforts that have been under way on campus during the past year.
These include several projects for the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, such as the replacement of the Ice Arena with a new facility on Florida Avenue that would be funded with a mixture of campus resources, donations and city funds. The site of the existing ice arena at Fifth Street and Armory Avenue could be converted to academic use, as could Huff Hall, if donor support were found to construct an Olympic sports arena and Huff were vacated, Rugg said.
Administrators are exploring renovating or replacing the Orchard Downs housing complex – either rebuilding at the current site near Florida Avenue and Race Street in Urbana or constructing facilities near the intersection of First Street and Windsor Road.
In the next few years, renovations likely will be needed at the Peabody Drive and Gregory Drive residence halls as well; construction of a consolidated dining center may begin as early as next spring.
Rugg told the senate that the UI Board of Trustees recently approved a proposal designating the area bounded by First Street, St. Mary’s Road, Fourth Street extended and Windsor Road for the next phase of development of the Research Park. The final updated master plan will likely propose the creation of a campus for the state surveys at the research park, freeing up sites on the core campus, such as the Natural Resources Building, for other uses. Amenities are being considered that would make the park more pedestrian friendly, attract more people to the area and aid in tenant recruitment, including a hotel, a restaurant and a conference center.
The draft plan also includes construction of a golf course east of First Street, and a donor for that project may be available, Rugg said.
Senators expressed concerns that none of the proposed construction is designated for replacing outdated academic facilities on the core campus.
“I think that any master plan (should include) replacing non-functional, antiquated buildings around the Quad with functional space that is appropriate for teaching,” said Dick Mintel, medicine and biochemistry.
Interim Chancellor Richard Herman responded that the Lincoln Hall renovations are a priority and that the campus needs to find a way to restore other deteriorating buildings.
Senators expressed concerns about pedestrian safety along St. Mary’s Road and traffic congestion as a result of additional development. Rugg said administrators are considering the impact that development would have on traffic in the area and whether St. Mary’s Road should remain a thoroughfare if those facilities are built. The research park expansion would be laid out in a grid pattern to accommodate public transport such as buses or a fixed guideway system, Rugg said.
Rugg reiterated several times that the draft master plan should be viewed “as more akin to a well-defined zoning plan that provides parameters than as a rigid map” for locating projects or a priority list for proposed new construction.
Belden Fields, political science, asked if the university is considering any revenue-sharing mechanisms that would benefit the local school districts.
Retail opportunities at the research park and across campus will be an important consideration for campus planning, offering additional revenue-sharing mechanisms for the university and the cities of Urbana and Champaign, Rugg said.
The city of Urbana would benefit if the Orchard Downs property is capable of supporting other types of development, and the university also is considering allowing private entities to locate on its property, which could generate millions for the cities through taxable improvements, Herman said.
“We’re engaged in an opportunity that probably comes along but once in a lifetime, in the sense that we’re talking about an enormous amount of building that has the potential to increase the tax base of the community, for instance, and can in fact result in major benefits to Champaign, Urbana and Savoy, in a way that would improve the quality of life while still retaining its basic character, which is why we all chose to work here,” Herman said. “One of the areas into which we must enter is the improvement of our schools, if we are expected to continue to bring faculty and staff (members) of quality to our doors.”
Joe Finnerty, chair of the University Statutes and Senate Procedures Committee, presented proposed revisions to the University Statutes that would facilitate the development of optional multi-year contracts for certain academic staff members. Multi-year contracts would be used mainly as a recruiting tool for a select group of non-tenure-track academic staff members, such as teachers at University High School or research associates in the College of Medicine.
“As it turns out, nine out of the 11 Big Ten Schools already have multi-year contracts; Minnesota and ourselves are in the minority,” Finnerty said. “We want the best people on this campus to provide research or teaching services, whatever this group will do. And in order to attract those people here, it may be necessary for us to be competitive.”
Administrators at each of the campuses in conjunction with their senates would determine campuswide ceilings for awarding multi-year contracts. Campus procedures governing dismissal and due process procedures for people with multi-year contracts will be prepared and written with the consultation of the Senate, Finnerty said.
Finnerty invited senators to e-mail their questions or comments to him or to the committee’s secretary, Francie Miller. The committee will consider senators’ input and expects to bring the final amendments before the senate for a vote in February.
Other business before the senate:
- Herman announced the launch of Illinois Promise, a privately funded UI program that will provide grants to high-achieving students whose families’ incomes are at or below the poverty level.
- Michael Grossman, chair of the Senate Executive Committee, said that the Committee on Committees identified several faculty members for possible inclusion on a campuswide committee for assessing the impact of the Chief on educational effectiveness as recommended by the North Central Association.
- Grossman said that he and Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the Educational Policy Committee, recently met with Acting Provost Jesse Delia to study the feasibility of a textbook rental program on campus.
- In response to a question from Peter Loeb, mathematics, Herman said that 93 to 94 percent of Urbana employees have completed the ethics training program. Administrators are contacting people who have not completed the ethics training or their supervisors.
- Dick Schacht, philosophy, commented on the perennial unreliability of the Foellinger Auditorium sound system and asked if Herman could “appoint a blue-ribbon commission of minds on campus to see if we can’t get a fix on this situation once and for all.” To which Herman responded, mimicking a current television commercial, “Can you hear me now?”