Trustees review proposed revisions to campus Master Plan By Sabryna Cornish, UIC News Bureau
Members of the UI Board of Trustees caught a glimpse of what the Urbana-Champaign campus might look like in the future when they viewed a presentation on proposed revisions to the campus Master Plan at their meeting on Jan. 20 in Chicago. The plan revisions address land use in the area from University Avenue to Airport Road and show how the campus could change during the next decade. The plan examines issues related to campus development and is reviewed every few years to determine if changes are warranted, according to Lyle Wachtel, associate vice president for Facilities Planning and Programming. Wachtel said that master planning is a process that provides the framework for the university’s vision, and “we’re at a real watershed moment.” The preliminary plan revisions called for adopting the precepts of the Campus Area Transportation Study, such as establishing uniform speed limits and signage within the University District. The preliminary revisions recommended congregating the state surveys in one area and establishing a grid street system for efficient land use. An expansion east of the UI Research Park would include a hotel/conference center and retail businesses as well as additional research facilities. The plan revisions included a new ice arena on Florida Avenue east of the softball stadium, an Olympic performance venue south of Assembly Hall and an indoor golf facility south of St. Mary’s Road that is being funded by a private gift and for which ground has already been broken. Commercial areas on campus would be overhauled under the plan, and an increase in regional and national businesses would enhance quality of life and add variety, said Joe Hibbard of Sasaki Associates, a Massachusetts-based consulting company that did the campus’s first contemporary plan in the mid-1980s and was hired to help with the update. “Our goal is to understand how businesses work together,” Hibbard said. One of the areas also under scrutiny is a three-quarter-acre site at the corner of Lincoln and University avenues, which is outside the master plan’s boundaries. While university officials would like to use the lot to establish a gateway to the campus, city of Urbana officials want commercial development there. “It’s important that we protect the visual approach of the university as people come into campus,” Hibbard said. “If the university sells the land, restrictions should be imposed as to what can go there.” Campus landscaping guidelines also would be reworked under the proposed master plan, grouping similar types of landscaping areas together to promote visual uniformity and promote biodiversity. Another goal of the revised landscaping guidelines is to develop the courtyards on campus to create informal gathering places. However, the Quad’s landscaping would be preserved to protect its historical integrity. Trustee Kenneth Schmidt said that in developing a final master plan he hopes to “maintain the focus on our academic needs.” Interim Chancellor Richard Herman said he sees the master plan review as “an opportunity that comes along once in a generation.” The final updated master plan will be presented to the trustees at a future meeting.
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