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Chaucey Aboutu

Heart of Campus Master Planning is shared vision

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The ideal campus design creates an engaging setting beyond the confines of bricks and mortar to achieve a functional environment for learning and living. The opportunities and challenges we face at Coastal Carolina University may not seem so far flung from the campuses Thomas Jefferson envisioned some 200 years ago. The words Jefferson penned in an 1810 letter to a Tennessee college trustee could also describe our own quest and commitment as we design a campus for the decades ahead:

“I consider the common plan followed in this country, but not in others, of making one large and expensive building, as unfortunately erroneous. It is infinitely better to erect a small but separate lodge for each separate professorship, with only a hall below for his class, and two chambers above for himself; joining these lodges by barracks for a certain portion of the students, opening into a covered way to give dry communication between all the schools. The whole of these arranged around an open square of grass and trees, would make it, what it should be in fact, an academical village, instead of a large and common den of noise, filth and fetid air. It would afford that quiet retirement so friendly to study....” *

The heart of Campus Master Planning is the shared vision of its stakeholders—students, faculty, staff and community. With a fall 2010 enrollment reaching 8,700 students, Coastal Carolina University is the fastest growing public university in South Carolina, reflecting a more than 81 percent headcount increase in the last decade. The future requires a strategic plan for campus development that reflects in-depth analysis, attention to economics, and awareness of the University's growth, culture and local community.

Since March, representatives of the campus and the community have been involved with Sasaki Associates in the development of the Campus Master Plan. The University is fortunate to be working with the renowned planning and design firm based in Watertown, Mass. (To see some of Sasaki’s work in higher education, visit http://www.sasaki.com/what/portfolio.cgi?project_type=12.

The Campus Master Planning effort encompasses the visible elements of the campus such as green spaces, buildings and their locations, and pedestrian and vehicular movement, as well as the less visible but nonetheless critical elements such as infrastructure systems for power, potable water, stormwater management, sewage and wetland delineation. In addition, an academic-space needs analysis (based on current and future academic programming) and a schedule of cost estimates for improvements and new buildings, as well as a schedule for implementation, will be included in the final plan.

A preliminary version of a Campus Master Plan has been presented to the Board of Trustees for comment and recommendations. The final presentation will be made to the board during its Feb. 18, 2011, quarterly meeting.

The design outlined in the preliminary plan transforms the University into a pedestrian-oriented campus within Chanticleer Drive, the academic core of campus. For example, James Blanton Circle would become a dedicated green area, and parking lots would be situated around the perimeter of the campus. A central pedestrian/bicycle path from the Spadoni Park area to Brooks Stadium would add a new sense of connectivity between different areas of campus. New residence areas could include suitable commercial venues and increased opportunities for interaction and reflection – moving us ever closer to Jefferson’s ideal of the “academical village.”

In the spring, the plan will be unveiled to various constituency groups across campus and in the community. I look forward to your engagement as we work together on this exciting and essential project.

*Wagoner, Jennings L. (2004), as cited from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Judge Hugh White and others, dated May 6, 1810, Writings, 1222-23.

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