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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Work continues on campus ‘Master Plan’

Shortly after his arrival, President Seligman established a campus master planning process to accompany the University strategic planning process. A long-term initiative that likely will stretch over 10 to 20 years, the plan is intended to assess the property owned by the University, including options for future development.

A subcommittee of the Board of Trustees' facilities committee is overseeing the planning process. Led by Trustee Roger Friedlander '56, the committee selected Ayres/Saint/Gross Architects and Planners to make recommendations on how best to utilize the University's holdings. Ronald Paprocki, senior vice president for administration and finance and chief financial officer, and University architect Paul Tankel sat down to explain what it all means for the University community and our Rochester neighbors.

Can you describe the process of developing the Master Plan?

Ronald Paprocki: The Master Plan Committee, along with our external consultants, is taking a look at the campuses—the way they're configured, the natural features, the connections with the neighborhoods, the connections among campuses—and ultimately we will talk about possibilities for the future. Along with the patterns of land use and the sites for future development, the things we will consider are transportation, parking issues, infrastructure, and the condition of facilities. The Master Plan does not answer the question "What are the next buildings to be built?"

At what stage is the plan now?

RP: We've had several meetings of the master planning committee and several visits by Ayers/Saint/Gross and other consultants. We've held some focus groups with members of the University community. We've also scheduled meetings with some local leaders—people from the City of Rochester, people from the Town of Brighton—and we also will reach out to the neighborhoods in the near future.

Paul Tankel: We've spent months gathering data, reviewing historical information, and studying campuses of similar institutions.

RP: We spent time on the River Campus in September and at the Medical Center in October and November. We also looked at the Eastman School of Music in November, and spent some time at the Memorial Art Gallery as well.

PT: We'll spend more time at the Medical Center in January.

What was it about the firm that inspired the committee to select it?

PT: They've worked on a range of campuses, especially our peer institutions.

RP: Emory, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Case Western. They are one of the preeminent campus planning groups in the country. They've done work at medical centers, and the Medical Center is such a large part of our picture that that was a factor as well. And they worked on the Goergen Athletic Center.

PT: The firm has looked at all of our campuses, and three themes have emerged from the process so far: coherence, compaction, and connection.

RP: Compaction is the opposite of sprawl. What the firm addresses is how we can concentrate development on the campuses in ways that make sense and not build things randomly over wide expanses of land.

PT: We've done that very well, actually, over the past 75, 80 years. Now we're looking at connections: How can we enforce the connections between the River Campus and the Medical Center, and to some degree in the future, the South Campus? What kind of coherence can we bring? They'll continue to be very different campuses, but what kind of links can we establish among them?

RP: How can we bring them together in different ways—physical connections like walkways and vehicular access—but also from the standpoint of design, so people recognize various parts of the University as part of the whole? So there's a sense of identity as well. That's part of the whole idea of connection.

Is there one area that's more viable for development at this point?

RP: The University is fairly land rich, which President Seligman has mentioned on various occasions, and we're not densely packed like some other institutions. Our undeveloped land gives us quite a bit of flexibility. This doesn't mean we're going to be developing that land immediately, but we want to map out likely patterns and possibilities for the future.

What kind of studies are you conducting at the Eastman School and the Memorial Art Gallery?

RP: Because Eastman is a more concentrated campus, the studies are more about the current facilities—what are the priorities for the future in terms of performance space, rehearsal space, and upgrading the current buildings? The same can be said of the Memorial Art Gallery, and with the amount of land there, it's possible that we could think imaginatively about future use.

Does the plan address sustainability?

RP: Sustainability is a theme that passes through the whole process. We will access the responsible capacity of the land, and we will deal with transportation and parking issues and how to minimize the number of cars that have to be parked. A lot of this will be tied to utilities, energy use, and how we can be more efficient.

PT: We're also looking at the open space component. People look at the River Campus and say, "Oh, it's so green," but at the Medical Center, there are large expanses of asphalt. One question is how to incorporate more open space, more green space, more sunlight into the Medical Center environment.

RP: And there will be concentrated areas of development to protect certain spaces, such as the wetlands and forested areas on the South Campus.

What about parking?

RP: We also have all these paved areas, these parking lots, yet the parking situation is very tight. Ultimately, for the long-term future, these lots might be consolidated into parking structures, leaving more land to build on. This is part of our study.

How will the plan affect the surrounding community?

RP: President Seligman is very interested in how the University interrelates with the neighborhoods that surround it, and we certainly are focusing on that. We're exploring how the land that we own on Mt. Hope Avenue might be developed in the future: What are some options that not only would serve the University, but also would stimulate some commercial development? And we take great interest in the 19th Ward. We are working with the city and the developers of the Brooks Landing project. We've also talked with developers who are contemplating other projects in the area.

PT: The edges of the University are our gateways to the community, particularly the intersection of Mt. Hope Avenue and Elmwood Avenue, but that's not particularly well defined. The University isn't "announced" well on that edge, as well as the entry coming up from the south, coming off of Route 390.

What's next for the committee?

RP: The Board of Trustees will receive a status report from the committee in March. Ultimately the committee will prepare a draft report that will contain a set of recommended options. Work will continue through the spring and summer, and in all likelihood, into the fall of 2007. And while we received input from every campus, there needs to be broader discussion of the plan. The committee will solicit input from the University community. We're in the process of establishing a Web site where people can get the latest information on the project.

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