By TEDDYE SNELL
Northeastern State University is well-known for its historic campus dating back to pre-statehood.
With that in mind, consultants hired to help with NSU’s Master Plan indicated a key component will be to preserve the campus’ “historic core and open spaces.”
About 60 people who attended a second community meeting Wednesday evening learned that since the first meeting in October, much data has been compiled and analyzed about traffic patterns, enrollment, projected growth and career opportunities for graduates.
NSU Director of Operations Tim Foutch welcomed attendees.
“We’re here to talk about where we are in the Master Plan process, and clarify what your role can be,” said Foutch. “We have about twice as many people here as we did at the first meeting, and we’re thrilled you’re here.”
Foutch introduced representatives from Smith Group JJR and Paulien and Associates, consultants with extensive experience in campus planning.
Neal Kessler, of Smith Group JJR, said they wanted to bring the community members up to date on what has happened since October.
“We’re here to share information we’ve gathered over the past several months,” said Kessler. “The next time we come will be more interactive. This session is to get you up to date on information we’ve gathered. We have no solid ideas for changes yet. The process is still in the beginning phases.”
Kessler said that in late April or early May, the team would return to campus to talk to students, faculty and community members about how the current space is currently used and how it could be used in the future.
“We’ll come back with several alternatives, and we’ll want your input, and we’ll all decide together,” said Kessler. “In the end, this will be your master plan – one that will take the university to great places over the next 20 years.”
Kessler encouraged participants to visit the Master Plan website, nsuok.edu/masterplan, pointing out the section for comments.
“We’re always looking at the site to make sure the comments are seen and digested,” said Kessler. “As this progresses, there are things I guarantee you’ll want to comment on, and transparency is key.”
Since October, on the Tahlequah campus specifically, the consultants have found a need to update academic spaces, while preserving the history of the site.
“We now know the historic core of the campus should be preserved, but renovated and updated instead of using demolition,” said Lauren Williams, also of Smith Group. “We’ve heard a lot about the library, and that it needs to have a more dynamic presence.”
Williams said they also see a lot of interest in revamping the University Center, as well as housing.
“Students generally enjoy living on campus, but would appreciate more options,” said Williams. “We’d like to see more juniors and seniors living on campus.”
Other issues being addressed is the need for better pedestrian connections from one end of campus to another; possibly creating an eastern campus athletic district, specifically addressing the women’s soccer field and the men’s baseball facility; and creating more collaborative learning spaces where students could meet and study after class in spaces with better access to the latest technology.
“A big component [to the Tahlequah section of the Master Plan] is to remember we are the host community [of the three sites],” said Kessler. “It’s great the university has close proximity to downtown. It’s also surrounded by residential area, which creates a little tension about the unknown when the university starts making plans.”
Part of the external plan will include uniting the residential districts on campus and creating more attractive residential areas, and enhancing campus edges in high visibility areas.
“We have a great gateway to campus coming up from downtown, but need more definition on the north and east ends of campus,” said Kessler. “We want [the gateways] to reflect our brand promise. We would also like to create a walkway from the center of campus to the stadium, creating that festive, ‘game day’ experience.”
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