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A peek at the future: Master plan calls for new construction

Coming soon to a campus dear to you: a brand-new athletic center and pool, a modern parking structure, two more undergraduate residential halls, an interdivisional research institute, and new facilities for the Graduate School of Business. Less than a year after the campus master planning process began, the plan's outlines are starting to emerge. Although the master plan won't be finalized and reviewed for approval by the University's trustees before the end of the year, the steering committee overseeing the planning has already mapped out most of the major pieces.

"A good master plan should serve the University for at least 20 or 25 years," says Provost Geoffrey Stone, JD'71. "Not only should such a plan locate particular buildings, but it should also say enough about what seems sensible down the road that others can follow its advice in the future. Without a master plan, a university tends to do projects very opportunistically-without an overall conception of what it's trying to accomplish and how the campus fits together as a whole." Stone, along with Trustee Robert Feitler, X'50, chairs the steering committee, which also includes seven other trustees, seven professors, and three vice presidents, and which retained architectural firm NBBJ as its lead consultant. The new master plan will be the fourth in the University's history.

Putting the plan together requires balancing many competing considerations, notes Stone. Not only must the committee think about the University's research, educational, physical, and aesthetic needs, but it also must consider the campus's relation-ship to Hyde Park, surrounding communities, and the lakefront. And, in locating such major projects as new dorms, labs, and the athletic center, the committee has had to determine those projects' impact on the rest of the campus, ensuring that adequate room remains for green space and future options.

At this point, the plan calls for the athletic center to be located between 55th and 56th Streets on the west side of Ellis Avenue, land now occupied by visitor parking, tennis courts, and University-owned apartments. The center's main entrance would be on Ellis, with another entrance opening directly onto the playing fields to the west.

Positioning the athletic center at the corner of Ellis and 55th addresses two of the consultants' main concerns, says Stone. First, although Ellis divides the campus almost exactly in half, most people think of Ellis as their "back door" rather than as a central thoroughfare. The new athletic center would help to bring people from the east (the College, the humanities and social sciences) and west (the Hospitals, the physical and biological sciences) sides of campus together. Second, although 55th Street is a campus border, it's not clearly defined as such. The athletic center, Stone explains, can "help create an architecturally significant and more welcoming entrance to the campus."

To help create such an entrance-and to replace parking eliminated by the new athletic center and dormitories-the committee is considering a parking structure across the street from the athletic center, along the south side of 55th between Ellis and Greenwood Avenues. The structure's ground floor may be used for student-activity offices or for a coffee shop or newsstand. With the surrounding parking structure and athletic center, says Stone, "Court Theatre and the Smart Museum would now finally become integrated parts of the campus, and the area north of 56th Street would for the first time become a vital center of activity." Moreover, he adds, he can foresee the possibility of a new arts center on the corner of 56th and Ellis where the Young building now stands, "completing a new arts/athletic complex."

To accommodate the University's growing undergraduate population, the committee also is proposing two residence halls. Housing a total of 600 to 700 students, primarily first-years, these L-shaped, low-rise halls would have seven distinct houses and be located around Regenstein Library: one along the south side of 56th from Greenwood to Ellis and then down Ellis, stopping just short of the Henry Moore sculpture; the other along the south side of 56th from Greenwood to University Avenue, then down University to Bartlett Gymnasium. The new quadrangle thus created would be adjacent to Hutch Commons and the Reynolds Club-two major student centers-and Bartlett would be converted into a dining hall. "Over time," Stone says, "we have dispersed our undergraduate dormitories around the community. This has in many ways been very successful, but it also has prevented the development of an on-campus center of student life. The point of this part of the plan is to provide first-years with this experience of being on the central campus."

Another major undertaking is the new research laboratory for the Biological and Physical Sciences Divisions, intended, says Stone, to "bring together many of the University's best biological and physical scientists in a laboratory designed for 21st-century research." The laboratory would run along the south side of 57th Street from Drexel Avenue to Ellis, requiring the removal of Whitman Laboratory and the Visual Sciences Center building and possibly Phemister Hall.

Though costs have yet to be tallied, Stone estimates the athletic center's price tag at about $35 million, with the two dormitories together costing $35 million, the parking structure coming in at $10 million, and the research laboratory costing approximately $110 million. The committee has not yet chosen architects for these projects, but Stone says the University plans for the projects to be completed within five years.

Two major facets of the master plan remain under consideration by the steering committee. First, the GSB needs additional space. Several possibilities are being examined, including a new GSB complex on the south campus and a new building on the east side of University Avenue. Second, the committee hopes to develop in the master plan a new landscape design for the Midway that would include a permanent skating rink. These issues and other, smaller projects will be decided in the coming months, with the final master plan expected to be released sometime next year.-K.S.

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