The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 7th

Plan Attempts To Maintain UNC Ambience

For prospective college applicants, a little too much concrete sometimes makes all the difference.

Allison Stevens, a freshman from Benson, said she decided to attend UNC after comparing the concrete of N.C. State University's campus with the characteristic trees of UNC. "When I visited N.C. State, it didn't seem to have the friendly atmosphere we have here," Stevens said. "There was a lot of brick, and it felt cold."

With UNC's Master Plan in place to map out future campus growth, efforts to preserve the inviting climate within the University and the town are a focus among students, Chapel Hill residents and UNC officials.

Linda Convissor, project manager of campus facilities planning, asked whether atmosphere or convenience is more essential to maintaining the feel of campus. "Do you want a commuter campus or a place (where) you would like to live and study?" she asked.

University and town officials say the plan favors the latter.

"The Master Plan protects a lot of the beauty of campus as it stands today," said Robert Humphreys, director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission.

Town residents say the intimate feeling of campus contributes to the appeal of Chapel Hill, helping to connect the town and University.

Maggie Lindquist, interim director of the Chapel Hill Preservation Society, said the academic climate in combination with the manageable size of the town contributes to an integrated community.

"(I like) the intellectual stimulation, the feeling of closeness and (the fact) that it is a smaller, not huge city, but at the same time has a cosmopolitan feel," she said.

New York City native and senior Andy Shapiro, who chose UNC over Cornell University, was impressed by the campus' consistent beauty across a large space. "Although this is a big campus, it doesn't really feel that way," he said.

UNC faculty members agree the appeal of the physical campus attracts students, saying the intellectual climate of the University is complemented by the campus atmosphere.

Jim Leloudis, UNC history professor and director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, said the compact size of North Campus further enhances the intellectual climate. "Across the disciplines, we are very closely clustered," he said. "I don't have to walk clear across campus to speak with another department."

But students and town officials say the beauty of North Campus does not extend down south. "The feel of South Campus is disgusting and horrible," said Kate Sowder, a sophomore living in Morrison Residence Hall. "You wake up and there's construction, and at night the sunset is between the hospital building and the water tower."

University officials also are aware of the disparities between the feel of North and South campuses. Al Calarco, the associate director of housing education, said the initial sight of high-rise residence halls gives South Campus an urban feel.

"When you're coming up Manning Drive, the first thing you see is the Morrison Residence Hall," he said.

But Calarco also said the feel of South Campus would change after the construction of four new residence hall communities, a project that breaks ground in November.

Leloudis said plans to simplify the cross-campus walk will reduce the perceived distance of South Campus to North Campus. "All of a sudden those distances, which seem enormously far in a psychological sense, will shrink," he said. "What's attractive about this plan is that what it's trying to do is pedestrianize South Campus and give it the feel of North Campus."

The Chapel Hill Preservation Society lauds the efforts to extend the beauty of UNC across its campus. "The plan to make West and South (campuses) like North with more green spaces and a warmer feel, I think would be excellent," Lindquist said.

But for Jennifer Webber, a freshman biology major, such isolation is a part of South Campus' appeal. "It's like a campus in itself, and it's a fun place to be because you're with all the other freshmen," she said.

Students and UNC officials say many of South Campus' problems stem from an overflow of traffic.

Convissor said a new approach to transit will have to be taken to maintain the atmosphere of the University in the wake of expansion. "We are growing at such a rate that we have to change the way we get around," Convissor said.

Lindquist said residents also are aware of the choice between increasing roads and parking versus preserving environmental beauty. "As townspeople we appreciate green spaces and hope that not every square inch of space will become parking - although parking certainly is needed," she said.

The expansion proposed in the Master Plan worries some Chapel Hill residents, who say they are concerned an increase in population will hurt the cozy climate of the town. "The University is becoming an overpowering, domineering entity to the town," said small-business owner Robert Palmer, who moved to Chapel Hill from California. "The town is gonna change, and you're not going to have that small feel."

Harry Watson, UNC history professor and Carrboro resident, said University growth also might affect the intimate feel of Carrboro because many UNC upperclassmen choose to live off campus. "Anything that increases student populations will lead to more apartments in Carrboro," he said.

But most town officials and UNC faculty members say that rather than resist the expansion of the University, precautions should be taken to preserve its current features.

"I think growth is inevitable, so we have to create new green spaces," said Peter White, biology professor and director of the Botanical Gardens. "This is a beautiful campus that should be protected for the future."

Chapel Hill Town Manager Cal Horton emphasized change that promotes the campus's welcoming and beautiful environment. "The town has grown as the University has over a long period of time, and we can all look back and see changes that have preserved many good things in the community - the beauty of the environment, both natural and built."

Lindquist said continued growth must be handled with care.

"Lots of things have come in and we can't keep people from moving here because it is lovely; what we have to do is control it so that it doesn't become a sprawl and lose the charm it has."


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