After 15 months of consultation with planners, Northeastern State University unveiled its long-term master plan for the use of existing structures, possible new construction, and to enhance campus aesthetics.
Tuesday’s open house at the University Center was a “reveal” to the public and media. Neal Kessler and Lauren Williams of SmithGroupJJR gave a presentation to those in attendance.
“This is the end of that planning process,” Kessler said. “In many ways, it is also the beginning to the process of realizing that vision.”
Kessler said the plan would not unfold immediately, but looked forward 20 years, and funding is not secured on such time scales. However, some projects are beginning, including the retainment of Wilson Hall, the replacement of Wyly Hall, and the remodeling of the Leoser complex.
“The plan is one idealized vision of how the campus can develop,” Kessler said. “Something is going to come up that is not going to fit into the physical plan. There can be something unexpected – maybe a donor who has an idea that nobody has thought about. The plan is flexible enough to accommodate that. But if something doesn’t fit the plan’s principles, what does it fit?”
Suggesting that adjustments should follow, Kessler listed the plan principles as enhancing the campus environment and student experience; facilities that welcome the local community; transparency and inclusion in the planning; preserving heritage structures like Seminary and Wilson halls; plus sustainability, precedence for pedestrians, anticipation of changes and campus unity.
Features of the “academic district” were similar to those suggested during the penultimate master plan public meeting in September. They included using the space occupied by Jack Dobbins Field House to build an academic building; constructing a greenhouse south of the science building; repurposing Seminary Hall as an administrative building with fewer classes; renovating the bathhouse; repurposing Wilson Hall; implementing parking enhancements; technologically upgrading the John Vaughan Library into a learning commons; placing an academic building on the southeast corner of Grand Avenue and Crafton Street; and repurposing the CASE and Administration buildings.
“For a long time, nothing is going to happen to Jack Dobbins Field House,” Kessler said. “We need that building. It is serving a number of purposes on campus, but eventually that site may be used for something else. One idea – not the only idea – is an academically focused performing arts facility.”
The “arts corridor” plan suggests a welcome center and gallery in the administration building and the creation of a fine arts courtyard.
The “Crafton commons” calls for expansion and renovation of the University Center; a pedestrian mall along Lewis Avenue; the replacement of the central Leoser complex with a green space and second-floor commons; expansion of the Courtside Apartments ;and beautifying Town Branch Creek.
“RiverHawk Fields” imagines a reconfiguration of the soccer and spring sports areas east of campus. The tennis venue would be on the southwest corner of Crafton and North Cedar Avenue. To the west would be two soccer pitches, including Dr. Dan F. DeLoache Field, then the baseball diamond. Directly across Crafton from the baseball venue would be the softball field. Two additional field house structures and additional parking would be built.
The plan also calls for creating pedestrian access from campus to Doc Wadley Stadium and the multipurpose event center.
The master plan calls for turning NSU into a campus that is more pedestrian-oriented, but Kessler said there is no proposal to alter Grand Avenue.
“While it would help prioritize pedestrians, we don’t think the street can be closed,” he said. “Maybe that can change in 20 years, but there is no closing of Grand over the life of the plan.”
To find out more about the NSU master plan, visit www.nsuok.edu/masterplan/MasterPlanHome.aspx. A copy of the plan will be placed online in the coming weeks.