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UNC's Master Plan: Where will the money come from?

The Master Plan proposes many ambitious projects over the next few decades. Right now, there's no money to fund most of them.

Hedge Removal Bell Tower
The grounds surrounding the Bell Tower now stands barren on day two of the landscape renovation project, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019.

In May, UNC’s Board of Trustees ratified a game plan to invigorate campus and set the stage for future physical developments. 

Known as the Master Plan, the document — which looks 15 years into the future and beyond — is still in its youth. Although it makes suggestions on major improvements to UNC Housing, Franklin Street properties and other projects, the details aren't finalized. 

Neither is the funding. 

“There’s no funding in place for most of the projects in the Master Plan, except for the ones in the immediate future,” said Board of Trustees Chairperson Richard Stevens. 

“Those will happen over time with a combination of state funds, donations, grants, gifts — just a long list of potential funding, but none tied down today.”

Stevens, who just recently was re-appointed as the Board’s leader, held the chairperson role when UNC formulated a prior Master Plan in 2001, which led to the creation of the Arts Common and Genome Science Building.

“We had a Master Plan that was developed by the board then. Some of it got implemented, some of it didn’t get implemented,” Stevens said.

Stevens emphasized at this stage in the game, project ideas are tentative and there’s room for priorities to shift around.

“It’s a plan,” Stevens said. “It’s a long range view of the future of the campus. Right now there are no deadlines on the time line for the plan.”

While UNC works to flesh out the Master Plan, it’s simultaneously in the process of raising $4.25 billion by the end of 2022. The unprecedented fundraising effort — called the Campaign for Carolina — began in 2017 and has raised $2.75 billion to date.

Kim Elenez, chief marketing officer in the Office of University Development,  said the Campaign and Master Plan are different entities serving different purposes, and money raised during the Campaign isn't slated to fund Master Plan projects.

“It’s sort of difficult to draw immediate and direct connections between the Campaign and the Master Plan,” she said. 

She said the Campaign is comprehensive rather than capital, meaning that the privately raised funds will go toward initiatives such as research, scholarships and innovative programs.  

“Ultimately what we have here is two different strategic drivers that the University needs to achieve,” she said. “One is making sure that we’re continuing as the nation’s leading global public research University that is growing, and also making sure that we have a campus that is growing and continuing to thrive for the 21st century.”

When news outlets began reporting the Master Plan might lead to some of UNC’s Franklin Street properties — which include Carolina Coffee Shop, Cosmic Cantina and Johnny T-Shirt — becoming the site of a grand campus entryway, a representative from University Real Estate Operations told the owner of Cosmic Cantina the Master Plan was in its fledgling stage. 

“As the Master Plan was only recently approved, we are in the very beginning of any planning,” said the UNC property manager in an email to Cosmic Cantina’s owner. 

“We still need to determine if this is a financially feasible project and would then need to complete several rounds of design and then approvals from the University, the State and the Town. In other words, if this comes to pass, it is years off.”

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