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The Daily Tar Heel

CLARIFICATION: The original version of this story states that the University embarked on the South Campus expansion in the 1980s. UNC built 123 of the 217 buildings in South Campus in the years since 1980. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for any confusion.

Although a 250-acre, innovation-focused expansion to UNC might seem without precedent, the University embarked on a project of similar scope in the 1980s.

But that project — South Campus — only took 30 years to complete, while the current project — Carolina North — is expected to take 50 years, or much longer.

UNC hasn’t even broken ground on the new campus, which will be centered on what is now Horace Williams Airport, six years after the Board of Trustees formally endorsed it.

The delayed expectations for the University’s largest capital project underline a key difference in priorities between Carolina North and South Campus: the latter emerged out of necessity while Carolina North is a project of the University’s research ambition.
Enrollment growth, the primary motivating factor for South Campus, which includes extensive student housing, has leveled off, making Carolina North less pressing, said Anna Wu, director of facilities planning for UNC.

“We don’t grow without reasons to grow,” she said.

The 1960s baby boomer generation spurred the need for South Campus, which began in the 1980s, Wu said. South Campus is made up of 217 buildings on 284 acres.

This includes UNC Hospitals, the Smith Center, student housing, the Rams Head facilities and the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Both South Campus and the projections for Carolina North include additions such as housing and new graduate school sites.

State funding that was meant to be appropriated to Carolina North was cut when the Board of Governors instead chose to use the funds to help the UNC system cope with budget cuts during the past few years.

James Holshouser, a member of the budget and finance committee of the UNC-system Board of Governors, said given the economic turmoil, it is harder than ever to find enough funds to go around.

“We have to work especially hard to be as efficient and cost effective as we can be,” Holshouser said.

“Everything has to be scrutinized pretty hard.”

Initially, plans for Carolina North included an innovation center, a new site for the School of Law and housing facilities.

Now, the innovation center has been canceled, and the law school and housing plans have been put on hold. The only short-term plans are the construction of a research center and infrastructure that is planned to begin at the end of 2012.

The site and designer of the research center were approved by the Board of Trustees last month.

Wu said the research center and infrastructure are the only projects that have funding because they are not relying on money from the state.

The law school and any other buildings to be added to Carolina North will require funding from the state to build.

Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor of facilities planning, said he is optimistic that Carolina North might eventually come into reality.

“We do feel once we get the first building out there, that will start a momentum and other buildings will follow.”

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