The university released “probably the biggest” long-term plan in its history Thursday, proposing to tear down prominent dorms and buildings for new structures and reshape the lakefill, to be completed over the next 50 years.
The Campus Framework Plan, proposed by a university-wide committee of students, faculty and staff, calls for the demolition of a large portion of campus, including five fraternity houses on North Campus, the Foster-Walker Complex, Sargent Hall, Bobb-McCulloch Hall, the Frances Searle Building and the South Campus parking deck. The lakefill-enclosed pond would become smaller to make way for new buildings.
The changes would bring “more cohesion, harmony and functionality” to campus over the coming decades, said James Webster, a School of Communication professor and member of the Campus Planning Advisory Committee.
The plan would also remove parking lots from the center of campus, open up green space and “take advantage of the proximity to the lake” while preserving “certain sacred spaces that everybody is devoted to,” Webster said. It envisions building sites that could accommodate as much as 7.46 million gross square feet of additional space in the coming decades.
The draft does not address specific timing or the cost of the recommended changes. Starting next week, the proposal will circulate around the Northwestern and Evanston communities for an open discussion in order for the committee to finalize it later this year. It will then be sent to the university administration for consideration and evaluation.
“We don’t want this to be a straitjacket; we want it to be a vision, a framework that allows a good deal of flexibility, some degree of freedom,” Webster added. “And it is a vision that, if we buy into it, will unfold over several decades.”
A key part of the plan is the restoration of the “historic crescent” of open space bordering Harris Hall, University Hall and Deering Meadow. Lunt Hall would move farther south to consolidate the academic departments in a new Social Sciences Quad. A new crescent that curves around the pond toward Lake Michigan would provide more green space while managing pedestrian traffic more efficiently. A bridge would connect the Norris University Center with the University Library to create a physical and social hub on campus — what planners describe as a “great civic square.”
But the plan also maintains areas that have formed the identity of the university — University Hall, Annie May Swift Hall, Harris Hall and the oak grove — Webster said.
“This campus has very few really old historically significant buildings,” he said. “Because we have so few historic buildings of character, we have to preserve them.”
The southwestern area of campus along Clark Street would be redeveloped to include a residential district, which Webster said would create “a live interface with the city.”
The committee consulted with the architecture firm Sasaki Associates during the 18-month planning phase. “In a university setting, where expansion occurs over many years, it’s essential to have this type of framework,” said Ricardo Dumont, Sasaki’s principal, in a statement. “We’re not suggesting all of this should be built. We are saying, consider future growth as an opportunity to strengthen what you already have,” he added.
“As we build out the campus, as we inevitably will do, we are going to do so consistent with the concept of how we ought to grow the campus and not have a mish-mash of buildings here and there,” Webster said, adding that so far the Northwestern community has been built piece-by-piece without big-picture planning.
”Because we have this limited footprint and because we continue to build, we just can’t continue to do so without some sort of a master plan about where things ought to go and what things in the fullness of time ought to be removed,” he added.
Students are invited to look over the plan and send in their thoughts via e-mail, the university said.
The university will give three presentations to the Northwestern community in McCormick Auditorium at Norris and will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 30, and at noon and 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1.
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