Campus community eyes its future via Master Plan

We’re living in a future today that university planners couldn’t even imagine when they released the last campus master plan in 2007.

“It’s a whole different world,” said Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president (resources and operations). “That plan (2007) did not consider this amazing rate of growth we have had. When we looked at how much had changed since we finished that plan, and compared it to now, we ended up seeing this latest campus master plan as a complete redevelopment – a new plan.”

Western’s 2007 Campus Master Plan appears almost quaint today. The document predicted flat growth in the undergraduate population through 2016-17 and anchored much of its belief in a hard number for future incoming first-year classes – 4,350. Perhaps that’s what led planners to predict the university was “unlikely to construct additional student housing in the foreseeable future.”

Flash-forward to today.

Master-Plan-Alumni-Circle

Western’s incoming first-year classes now top 5,000 students and, just this past year, the university added a new, 1,000-bed residence, Ontario Hall.

“The principles of that plan were sound. In fact, we have reaffirmed them in this latest plan. But the basic underpinnings of the previous plan changed so much, we needed to take a fresh look,” continued Kulczycki, a member of the current 13-person Campus Master Planning Committee. “And that’s what we have done.”

Released to the wider public last week, a draft version of Western University’s Campus Master Plan 2015 outlines what university planners see as the infrastructure needs of the campus in order to achieve the goals of Western’s strategic plan, Achieving Excellence on the World Stage. Once in its final form, the plan will serve as a guide to the possible physical futures for the university as it continues to grow over the next several decades.

The plan is now circulating for community feedback.

Master-Plan-Oxford-Drive

The 141-page plan addresses a number of areas, including potential new building locations in the core campus. Neighbouring locations to Weldon Library, Westminster Hall, Alumni Hall and Springett Lot all made the list of primary possibilities.

“If history is a good indication – and it’s the best indication we have got on what our growth is going to be – then this plan gives us, for sure, about three decades of development room on primary sites,” Kulczycki said. “And that’s not even considering secondary sites.”

But the structures on these outlined sites are far from written in Indiana limestone.

“This plan is a guidepost; it guides our future development,” she said. “Who knows what things will come up in the future that, at this point, we don’t know about? This plan shows potential.”

On a smaller scale, the plan also identifies six priority areas for streetscape/landscape improvements, including Western Road, Alumni Circle, Oxford Drive, Social Science Plaza, Kent Drive and University Hill. The improvements are both logistic and cosmetic – building on the university’s commitment to its ‘most beautiful campus in Canada.’

“I walk a number of these areas every day, but my eyes don’t necessarily notice everything when I walk from building to building,” Kulczycki said. “But when someone puts a photograph in front of you, like this plan does, and you look at it, you see what it really looks like in some of our primary areas of campus. Then, you realize what it could be.”

With future campus development, two additional areas for landscape and open space improvements are highlighted – an extension of Oxford Drive south to the Engineering/South Valley and enhancement to the landscape along Perth Drive.

And then there is parking.

As the university continues to expand within its core, a shift regarding parking and transportation will need to be adopted, Kulczycki said. But the need for parking within the main campus will not go away anytime soon. This plan has identified potential areas for new structured and surface parking.

“We have to be very smart about how we manage traffic, how we manage parking,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why rapid transit is vital for us. Rapid transit is actively considered in this plan. If we could get rapid transit coming to our campus, it creates a viable option for us to point to our employees. Right now, we have difficulty doing that.”

Parking, for example, points to the fact Western’s plan is far from a standalone entity, Kulczycki stressed. Much of its success depends on the success of planning and execution by community partners like the City of London and University Hospital (UH). In fact, the next version of Western’s plan may include a page or two nodding to UH’s plans.

Western community members can comment in writing to masterplan@uwo.ca or by attending a Campus Community Meeting at 12 p.m. Feb. 25 in the University Community Centre’s McKellar Room. At that event, the plan will be presented and attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions.

“With this plan, we have some exciting opportunities to enhance and build upon our beautiful campus. That excites me,” Kulczycki said. “Where you have ideas about areas we have not considered in the plan, where you have concerns about things not spoken to, we want to hear them.”

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HAVE YOUR SAY. Your opportunity to shape the future of this campus has arrived. Western’s Campus Master Planning Committee is seeking your input on the university’s draft Campus Master Plan 2015. You can comment in writing to masterplan@uwo.ca or by attending a Campus Community Meeting at 12 p.m. Feb. 25 in the UCC’s McKellar Room. At that event, the plan will be presented and attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Master-Plan-Social-Science

Western University’s Campus Master Plan 2015 identifies six priority areas for streetscape/landscape improvement, including Western Road, Alumni Circle (top photo), Oxford Drive (middle photo), Social Science Plaza (bottom photo), Kent Drive and University Hill. The improvements are both logistic and cosmetic – building on the university’s commitment to its ‘most beautiful campus in Canada.’