Easy to print version

Changes to Campus Debated

By Jody Record '95
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn MySpace E-mail Favorite More

In April, UNH planners held a series of informational forums, attended by standing-room-only crowds, on a proposed update to the campus master plan. Reaction to many aspects of the plan was favorable, but there was unanimous sentiment that agricultural lands and activities on the western edge of campus need to be protected.

Of particular concern was the concept of retail or commercial development on land long home to the dairy and equine programs. Within 24 hours of the first forum, an online petition opposing the idea was signed by more than 1,000 people. The master plan draft was subsequently modified to preserve the land's current dairy, equine and other agricultural uses.

A second controversial part of the draft plan called for expanding the Hamel Recreation Center in response to student requests for larger fitness facilities. Some participants at the forums voiced concern that this could either eliminate or reduce the outdoor pool, and many Durham residents spoke of the value the outdoor pool provides to the community. Planners are currently evaluating options for fitness facilities.

Attendees supported other key components of the plan, including a new center for the arts. After evaluating and receiving feedback on 12 possible locations for the center, planners have settled on a site near Parking Lot C, which balances proximity to both the Paul Creative Arts Center and downtown Durham. As proposed, the initial phase would include a 350-seat performance hall, a 175-seat "white box" theater and sound and visualization suites. Although this phase would displace Engelhardt Hall, the site would allow space for several optional additions to the center later.

The Leavitt Center and West Edge parking lot could eventually be redeveloped through public-private ventures in collaboration with the town of Durham. But these ventures would "likely happen incrementally depending upon specific proposals," according to the plan, and any university facilities displaced by public-private ventures would be relocated. "We need to be willing to consider concepts and ideas that we have not looked at previously," said Paul Chamberlin, assistant vice president for energy and campus development, at one of the April forums.

Also in the proposal are plans for football stadium improvements and the location for graduate student housing. In response to feedback from students, the housing would be built close to the main campus.

The current campus master plan was adopted in 2004. Since then, the university has invested $500 million in facilities and completed more than 40 projects. Updating the plan began last fall and factored in the need to raise revenue in light of last year's nearly $33-million cut in state funding to UNH by the New Hampshire Legislature.

The draft plan will be sent to President Huddleston in the fall for his review and will be submitted to the USNH Board of Trustees for final approval.

Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents