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Master Plan Continues on Track Despite Numerous Revisions

With the blaring sounds of construction equipment in the background, the Master Plan was a noticeable presence on campus this year with the groundbreaking of new South Campus residence communities.

And like the members of the UNC Board of Trustees, who made numerous revisions before unanimously approving the University's blueprint for future campus growth last March, students weren't always happy with the original plan.

During the course of its development, the Master Plan was forced to modify itself numerous times, utilizing a flexibility the plan's directors said was inherent in its design. UNC administrators said the views of students, faculty and town residents were taken into consideration to revise the four precincts of the original plan and make it more accommodating to the entire campus community. "The plan is far better than it was 12 months ago," said Chancellor James Moeser.

Linda Convissor, project manager for facilities services, said the current plan's development was more visible from the beginning and more reliant on outside input than past master plans used by the University. "This was a much more inclusive process," she said. "Everybody knew what was happening on campus."

The current Master Plan's inception in 1997 came after the late Chancellor Michael Hooker's decision to update the University's working Master Plan and hire Baltimore-based architect firm Ayers Saint Gross to draft a new plan for UNC's development.

Several drafts and 75 committee and community meetings later, the first tangible results of the new Master Plan took root when construction on the four South Campus residence hall communities broke ground last fall.

The communities are slated for completion by the summer of 2002.

While the construction of the communities has encountered numerous complaints from current South Campus residents, directors of the Master Plan say completion of the project will revitalize the area's current climate. "What's different about this plan is that it truly took a serious look at South Campus," said Jonathan Howes, director of the Master Plan.

And Convissor said students have grown more receptive to the plan as the project proceeds. "The groundbreaking has really excited people now," she said. "Students have a clearer vision of what South Campus is going to be like."

Work on the project has proceeded as scheduled, but concerns have arisen among housing officials about increased traffic problems on Manning Drive. Subsequent revisions finalized in the fall called for a new traffic corridor to provide access to South Campus.

Nearly one month after making its debut on the UNC campus, the implementation of the Master Plan was accelerated by a heavy financial boost from the voter approval of the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum.

The referendum gave UNC $500 million to spend on capital improvements, such as the construction of a digital media center, biomedical building, global education center and renovations to the existing complex of science buildings, which includes razing Venable Hall.

The approval of the referendum also gave clearance to an ambitious project to renovate the Ramshead parking lot that could break ground by March 2002.

Architects for the project were selected last semester, and they quickly developed plans to build an underground parking deck on the existing Ramshead site. The project plans to cover the deck with a grassy quad and commercial buildings such as a Harris Teeter express center, sports-themed restaurant and a massage center.

Several months later, those plans, along with diagrams of the entire Master Plan, were presented before the Board of Trustees for approval. Howes said the weeks leading up to the BOT's May 22 vote included continued work done on the plan. "The intensity level increased as we reached the conclusion," he said. "We wanted to give (community members) every chance to be heard on the matter."

Among the plans presented to the BOT were revisions made during the summer by Andropogon Associates and Cahill Associates to address storm runoff and other environmental concerns inherent in campus construction projects.

Backed by enthusiastic support from Moeser and several BOT members, the Master Plan was unanimously approved at the meeting, officially launching a new era of campus growth.

But the new residence hall communities on South Campus have yet to be completed. The extensive renovations to the Ramshead parking lot have yet to break ground. Plans to construct new family housing in the next five years have yet to be designed. And countless other projects visualized in the final draft of the Master Plan are still waiting for funds and a timeline.

This year saw the end of the Master Plan's original design, but only the beginning of its implementation and development. UNC administrators said guiding that development will be among their most critical tasks during the next several decades. "We have to leave this place as good as we've found it," said Moeser.

"These decisions will be the most long-lasting."

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