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Stepping forward: UNCG unveils its newest campus master plan

Stepping forward: UNCG unveils its newest campus master plan

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GREENSBORO — UNCG's newest master plan calls for expanding its crowded library, adding more science buildings and getting to work on its millennial campus.

Titled "Stepping Forward" — a nod to the university's "Taking Giant Steps" strategic plan — the UNCG master plan gives the university a blueprint for improving its campus over the next 15 years.

UNCG's trustees voted Thursday to accept this new master plan, which has been in the works for the past year.

The master plan lays out three rounds of potential projects: four that could be done in the next five years, seven more that could be completed by the end of the decade and eight others that could be tackled within 11 to 15 years.

(Click here to see the presentation of UNCG's new master plan.)

The master plan's top priority — and the project atop UNCG's wish list for the past several years — is an overhaul of the university's 70-year-old library. Jackson Library is the most-used campus building. Its nine-story annex, opened nearly 50 years ago, lacks a fire suppression system. There aren't enough seats and meeting rooms for everyone who wants to use the library. And disabled persons can't get to much of the building.

UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam said UNCG is the only UNC System school without a new or recently renovated library.

The library addition might include additional study areas, meeting and conference spaces for students and faculty and a visitors center because the building is located in the center of a campus of nearly 20,000 students. The addition also might serve as a transportation hub for the shuttle buses that carry students around campus and throughout Greensboro.

The biggest barrier is state funding, as it is with most projects in UNCG's master plan. The 2019 state budget approved by the North Carolina legislature included $84 million to improve UNCG's library. But Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the state budget in a legislative dispute over Medicaid funding and public school teacher pay. Money for UNCG's library project was included in three separate bills filed earlier this year, including a proposed bond issue that the House approved in June, but none of these proposals made it through the legislature.

Expanding the library isn't a new idea at UNCG. The university's 2007 and 2014 master plans both included suggestions to add onto Jackson Library. Those two master plans also suggested that the library addition should also serve as a campus transit hub.

Another near-term project included in the master plan: a new science building on the north side of campus. The master plan shows that proposed facility on the current site of UNCG's on-campus child care center. According to the master plan, UNCG could build a new child care center on university property along McIver Street and across the street from one of the university's three parking decks.

Also on the list of near-term projects is a new arts space that UNCG has labeled the Arts Place @ Tate & Gate because of its proposed location at South Tate Street and West Gate City Boulevard.

UNCG announced a year ago that a 10,000-square foot building for the visual and performing arts would be the first building of the university's millennial campus.

The university has envisioned the Arts Place building as a flexible space that could hold up to 300 people for live performances, art exhibits and other cultural and educational events. Architects had been working on designs, site plans and cost estimates, but Gilliam said this week that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted that work and diverted the money that UNCG had hoped to use for construction.

"We still have it as top of mind as part of a first salvo in the millennial campus," Gilliam told trustees at a board committee meeting Tuesday. "I hope we'll be able to get back to that soon."

UNCG got permission from the UNC Board of Governors in 2017 to establish a millennial campus, which allows for private-sector partnerships that universities typically can't engage in. UNCG has said it plans to create two millennial campus districts — one for the visual and performing arts along Tate Street, and a health and wellness district largely along West Gate City Boulevard.

In the master plan's six-to-10-year time frame, possible projects include additions to the Weatherspoon Art Museum and the Bryan School of Business and Economics and construction of a second new science building. The master plan also calls for replacing the Eberhart Building, a science facility to two of UNCG's most popular majors, biology and psychology. That building turns 50 next year.

The new master plan calls for relocating the School of Health and Human Sciences to one of these proposed new science buildings because the school's nine departments are scattered throughout campus. About 20% of UNCG's students are enrolled in the health and human sciences school, which is the university's third-largest academic division after the College of Arts and Sciences and the business school.

Further-out projects include millennial campus buildings along West Gate City Boulevard, one new residence hall and an addition to an existing dorm.

UNCG trustees in 2019 approved spending $450,000 to pay for a new master plan, the first done since Gilliam arrived on campus in 2015. The board hired Sasaki, a Massachusetts architecture and design firm that did UNCG's last master plan in 2014, to prepare the new one.

Greg Havens, a principal with Sasaki who led the UNCG planning effort, said the new master plan reflects the university's strategic plan and gives UNCG a long-term vision for developing its campus. He said the master plan is designed to be flexible to include new projects and ideas as campus conditions change.

UNCG's new master plan also included an examination of how the university uses its current space.

The new master plan was put together with input from UNCG faculty, staff and administrators and is intended to make the campus a more welcoming place for employees and potential and current students.

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.​

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