By Doug Hallett
The focus is on “renewal” rather than growth in a new campus master plan that was on display Tuesday at the University of Guelph, says one of the project’s lead consultants.
“Much of the campus built in the ’60s and ’70s is nearing the end of its life,” said Warren Price, a senior associate at the Toronto consulting firm Urban Strategies who is leading the campus design component of the new master plan.
That’s part of the reason the focus of the new 50-year vision for the U of G is on renewal, Price said in an interview in the University Centre, where large panels outlining highlights of the latest draft of a new master plan were on display.
Technically, Price said, the current master plan exercise is an update of the university’s 2002 master plan. But whereas the 2002 plan “set the stage for a lot of growth” on campus, the new update “does not advocate for growth.”
The 2002 master plan was preceded by a long-range development plan done in 1964, when the University of Guelph was created.
With the U of G not projecting any significant increase in enrolment at its Guelph campus for the foreseeable future, Price said, what’s now being crafted is a master plan that can accommodate growth but doesn’t rely on growth.
The first master plan at the Ontario School of Agriculture, which became one of the founding schools of the new U of G in 1964, was done in 1882 and was organized around Johnston Green. And, Price said, this heritage landscape gets a lot of attention in the new master plan.
The university should build upon the strengths of Johnston Green, he said. “We have proposed that the space be restored,” including relocating part of its parking and doing a “full landscape master plan” for it.
Asked what the most contentious part of the new master plan has been so far, judging by the feedback received, Price responded by talking about Johnston Green.
“It’s surprising sometimes what is contentious,” he said. “One of the things we’ve heard a lot about is the nature of the path that crosses Johnston Green and should it be paved?”
The current draft of the new master plan also focuses on protection of green space elsewhere on campus, such as the “pastures” in the west end of the campus, so that buildings don’t end up being built in the middle of them, he said.
Although it’s a 50-year vision, the new master plan includes a list of 20-year “mid-term” objectives, he said. The plan sets out a “full menu” of potential projects for the university to consider and prioritize.
“We really think Gordon Street is a really important part of the campus,” Price said, and the new master plan suggests enhancing the “pedestrian, the cycling and even the transit experience” along Gordon, while still maintaining car traffic.
Asked if there’s anything radical or dramatic in the new plan, he said that there isn’t and that the focus has been on “organic evolution” of the campus to maintain “continuity” with what is there now.
Even if enrolment doesn’t go up on campus in coming years, there could still be a need for changes in campus spaces, Price said. One reason is the big impact that the ongoing changes in communication, such as widespread computer tablet use, is having on how people teach and how they learn. Different types of spaces for teaching and learning may be needed as a result, he said.
Tuesday’s open house, which followed an initial one in March, is the last one planned. The team in charge of the new master plan will now consider feedback and work towards finalizing a master plan that is likely to go to the university’s Board of Governors in early 2013, Price said.
Before it’s finalized, however, a draft plan is expected to be posted online for scrutiny and for more feedback, he said.
The master plan project is being managed by the university’s Office for Space and Facility Renewal and is being guided by a steering committee of academic, administrative and student representatives. A number of consulting firms are also bringing a variety of skills and expertise to the table.
The new master plan can be checked out online at www.uoguelphcmp.com.