Latest master plan shows more expansion
Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer
In February 2013, UNT announced a five-year strategy known as the Master Plan to ensure the fulfillment of its “four bold goals,” a campaign set forth during V. Lane Rawlins’ presidency. According to the Master Plan, the bold goals are statements about becoming a tier-one, recognizable school and providing the best undergraduate education in Texas.
The 2013 Master Plan goals aim to support the bold goals, accommodate growth, improve transportation and circulation on campus, create more defined campus borders and enrich the campus’ image.
Enrollment rates at UNT have recently exceeded the estimates first predicted in 2005, the university’s last major Master Plan before 2013. As a result, in 2013, university officials altered and refocused the Master Plan to accommodate for more rapid growth.
The 2005 plan estimated an enrollment of 41,000 by 2015. At the time of the 2013 planning phases, 36,000 students were at UNT. The 2013 Master Plan predicts 45,000 students to be enrolled beyond 2020.
Vice chancellor for administrative services James Maguire emphasized that UNT’s plans for expansion and improvement were not defined in 2013. Rather, they have been in effect over the last decade.
“The development and the continued improvement of the students is our primary concern,” he said. “The notion to try to improve the environment is paramount.”
Making a plan
In May 2012, the steps to create a new plan for UNT began. A Master Planning group, comprised of university faculty, city officials and outside consultants, made observations and provided the framework for the new plan.
Open forums about the plans encouraged feedback from faculty and staff in February 2013.
A skeleton of what will become Rawlins Hall remains under constant construction. The newest residence hall will be UNT’s second honors dorm for Honors students and is scheduled to open for the upcoming fall semester.
Vice President for Student Affairs Elizabeth With could not recall the exact involvement, but said Student Government Association was included in the conversation.
According to the Master Plan literature, areas included the Eagle Point plan (Victory Hall area), University Union construction plans, sites for parking garages, street improvements to Avenue C and Highland Street, a science and technology area of campus along Hickory Street and a new College of Visual Arts and Design building on Welch Street.
Since 2005, 10 projects from that plan have either been completed or are underway.
However, some students are dissatisfied with the amount of construction that is taking place due to the growth.
“The construction is really annoying,” business freshman Everett Wenzel said. “It is kind of annoying driving around, and it just seems like there are always roads blocked off so it just slows it down.”
Making a statement
Lately, there has been focus on the Gateway building district and I-35E entry area on campus from construction of Rawlins Hall to the area around Sack & Save.
That’s because the planners in 2013 concluded UNT would benefit from that area. In fact, the Master Plan does indicate the university will eventually expand into that area.
“We are in discussions, based on the Board of Regents direction, to purchase the property from the Remington Partners,” Maguire said. “We were actually originally approached by the Remington Partners this summer. They were hoping we would want to lease the property, but it’s more advantageous to purchase it.”
The Master Plan outlines the importance of the area to UNT.
A gate and signs are posted to mark the construction site of the new Union.
“That is a primary vehicular area to the campus,” he said. “So for a lot of people, it’s the first impression of the campus. It has been a longstanding idea to make improvements to that area, going back 15 years.”
UNT will feel the impact of the 1-35 expansion. Maguire said although construction won’t affect any university buildings, some current exits will be relocated.
Other areas on the list include Eagle Drive, the central portion of campus and the Fouts Field area. The Master Planning Committee determined a need for musical facilities and a new library master plan.
A primary focus in the Master Plan is to define the campus’ borders, and create edges that are more visible to make it clear when entering or exiting campus. The Master Plans reads that many or most of the identifiable borders are currently only denoted by parking signs, or other less significant markers such as parking lots.
The addition of trees and plants alongside new sidewalks would establish the campus’ borders, and create a better identity, according to the Master Plan. New signs and banners welcoming visitors will also need to be installed.
“As you enter the campus, you should be able to know you are entering the campus,” Maguire said.
There were about 12,150 parking spaces on campus in 2013 when the planning took place. The 2013 plan would increase that to 13,250.
Consistent with the 2005 and 2013 plans, the focus is to save space for parking expansion. The Master Plan reads that the Highland Street Garage was built smaller than it was intended.
While the university acknowledges the need for more parking, the Master Plan states that parking lots are not of the best use of university property. Both plans agree that parking should be on the outer edges of campus to lessen traffic toward the center of campus.
Plans for a Highland Street Transit Mall were updated in the plan. The idea was that the mall would create a sort of transportation hub right down the middle of campus. It would allow non-motorized traffic and buses to quickly get through the area.
A shell of the Union and scaffolding fill a giant hole in the center of campus. The new University Union is sheduled to open in fall 2015 and will be equipped with several new features like a rooftop garden, meditation room and dance room.
According to the Master Plan, this would help alleviate the issue of parking. Bus riders would see decreased travel times. The planners predicted more people would use the buses, decreasing the need to drive to campus. It would also increase the amount of bike and foot traffic.
There is no specific timeline for the construction of the projects mentioned in the plan. Maguire also said there is not a specific budget. Each building or project has an individual budget, contractor and staff. The Master Plan instead presents the possible steps the university may take in the future to solve potential issues.
Featured Image: While the Union is being built, Stovall Hall is serving as a temporary union for students and houses the SGA offices and Wells Fargo, among many other organizations and departments. Photos by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer
You might also like
Carina Aquino / Staff Writer Did you always know that you wanted to do political science and European studies? Yeah. As an undergrad I was a political science and French
Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer Every year across India, clouds of brightly-colored powder envelop streets, homes and villagers in a celebration that marks the beginning of the spring season.
Indie rock band Wavves took the UNT stage Friday night for a show full of good music and laughter. The band walked onto the stage to a mystical sounding tune.