published Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Growing UTC looks to campus of future


by Jessie Gable

After six consecutive years of record-setting enrollment, UTC administrators are looking for ways to accommodate more students in the next 10 years.

University administrators are requesting proposals for a new campus master plan that will let them evaluate the campus and opportunities for new housing, classrooms, parking and recreation, UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell said.

Janet Spraker, director of engineering services at UTC, said the proposal will serve as more of a blueprint for possible additions than a plan for specific acquisitions or buildings.

Among things administrators will be looking for are sufficient spaces for athletic fields and practice facilities, adequate green spaces for formal and informal gatherings and recommendations for new housing, Spraker said in an e-mail.

More than 10,000 students are enrolled this year at UTC and administrators will be looking for plans suited for 12,000 to 15,000 students, Cantrell said.

“More students living on campus means we have to have more recreation activities for them,” Cantrell said. “We can’t just have everything shut down at 5 p.m.”

Richard Brown, vice chancellor of finance and operations at UTC, said the plan will help the university respond to increased enrollment over the next decade. Requests for proposals are made every 10 years to anticipate changes, Brown said.

“We want to make sure our planning matches our desire for growth,” Brown said.

It’s not just about the students, though. A key aspect of the request rests in finding a contractor who will be able to work with current roads and sidewalks to make sure any on-campus additions enhance the city’s off-campus progress, Cantrell said.

“You look at the buildings nearby,” Cantrell said. “You don’t want to build a 10-story building in an area where all the rest are two and three stories.”

UTC’s last master plan was instituted in 2000 when the university shifted toward a more eco-friendly campus. Now, one of the focus areas for the new request will be a sustainable campus perspective, evaluating current practices and instituting new ones that would lead UTC to be a more self-sustaining campus, Spraker said.

In the previous master plan, “we placed an emphasis on green space,” Cantrell said. “Although we’re an urban campus, we wanted to preserve as much of our green space as we could. That is an important element.”

And that emphasis won’t change with the new plan, he said.

As is the case with most college campuses, parking and transportation issues will continue to be addressed, Cantrell said.

“The master plan should strengthen connections to the downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods and provide a bicycle and pedestrian circulation plan to support health and green initiatives,” Spraker said.

Cantrell said another option for proposals would be to outline how the university could use two off-campus resources: 200 acres at Enterprise South industrial park and the Gold Building, the former headquarters for BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee on Pine Street.

Cantrell said administrators will look at proposals from any contractors who can meet the needs and goals of the university.

“We’re excited about having these conversations and the potential for attracting a planner with the skill set to provide a comprehensive plan,” Brown said.

The 2000 plan provided additional housing, a library and landscaping renovations that make UTC “one of the most attractive campuses in Tennessee,” Brown said.

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