By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal
HUNTINGTON – The final draft of Marshall University's new 10-year campus master plan will be presented to the university's board of governors Oct. 30 and subsequently to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
The plan has been prepared for Marshall by a consortium of consultants headed by SmithGroup JJR of Ann Arbor, Mich. The consultants have been at work since November 2012, gathering suggestions and comments from Marshall administrators, faculty and students, as well as interested members of the community.
Mary L. Jukuri, a campus planner with SmithGroup, told a Sept. 8 public briefing on the plan that it shouldn't be viewed as "something set in stone," but rather a "framework to guide future discussions" on how the campus can best be utilized.
Pointing to today's tighter higher education budgets, Jukuri said the planners are recommending no significant increase in the size of the university's main Huntington campus. "Instead our aim is to better utilize the existing campus," she said, "and invest in what the university already has."
Jukuri said the planners studied a dozen campus buildings and are recommending renovations and/or additions to 11 of them. "We found only one, Holderby Hall, to be so outdated that we're proposing it be demolished rather than renovated."
The planners urge that dorm rooms at the university's Twin Towers complex be modernized and enlarged. That work, along with the demolition of Holderby Hall, will mean a loss of 425 dorm beds, which will need to be replaced by new residence hall construction.
The master plan envisions renovations at a number of buildings, including Jenkins Hall, Cam Henderson Arena, Gullickson Hall, the Science Building, Morrow Library, East Hall and Welcome Center. It calls for a major renovation and expansions of the Memorial Student Center.
Perhaps the most ambitious project envisioned in the plan is the construction of a new high-tech classroom building at an early date and perhaps a second classroom building later.
Noting that neither 3rd nor 5th avenues are currently carrying traffic at their full capacity, the plan recommends reducing each to three lanes rather than four. The planners noted that pedestrians often find it difficult to cross the two avenues, and removing one lane would provide room for infrastructure improvements in the name of safety, as well as bike lanes.
Jukuri noted that any change in the traffic pattern on the two avenues would require the approval of both the West Virginia Division of Highways and the city of Huntington.
Students and campus visitors who complain about never being able to find a campus parking spot will find little to cheer about in the plan. Marshall's current 4,300 parking spaces are more than adequate for a school its size, Jukuri said, noting that not all the current lots and garages are being fully utilized. Increased utilization might be obtained from revising the way parking is regulated, she said. An effort is needed to encourage greater daily use of the parking spaces at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, she said.
The university's new parking garage on 6th Avenue has been designed for expansion, but that should not be undertaken while other parking spaces aren't being fully utilized, she said.
Required by the HEPC, the 10-year plan must be completed and submitted to the commission for its approval by the end of 2013. The last such plan was put in place in 2003.