UT presented the 2011 draft of its Master Plan to the community Thursday at the UT Visitors Center.
Curtis Catron, consultant and landscape architect for Bullock, Smith and Partners, presented the Master Plan preferred concept to attendees before sharing the floor with Chris Cimino, vice chancellor of finance and administration, to take questions and comments.
The original UT Master Plan was drafted in 1994 and updated in 2001. In 2009 Chancellor Jimmy Cheek started another round of updates by establishing the Master Plan Advisory Committee.
One of the driving forces shaping this latest draft is UT's desire to become a top 25 research university.
"This was significant in our planning effort because the university, every year, submits its list of projects that it would like to fund or have the state fund," Catron said. "That priority is set based off of the needs within the academic realm in that more class lab space, rather than pure academic space, will be needed on the front end of the Master Plan."
Adding more laboratory and research space coincides with UT's projection of significant growth in the number of graduate students.
The presentation was split into near and long-term projects. Consistent in both was the commitment to make UT more pedestrian friendly. This involves pushing parking and main roads to the outside of campus while creating more green space and bike accessibility inward.
"We are really bringing bicycle paths to the forefront by either placing them in walkways or putting them in planned roadways," Catron said.
The response to this initiative has been positive.
"Overall, we are getting great feedback about the pedestrian green space that we are adding to the campus," Cimino said.
In order to make UT more pedestrian friendly, Andy Holt Avenue, Melrose Avenue, Temple Street and part of Volunteer Avenue will be closed and converted as part of a proposed Grand Mall or another pedestrian green space.
Other short-term, state-funded projects on the main campus include the renovations of Strong Hall, Jessie Harris Building, Walters Life Sciences, Early Learning Center and Hoskins Library. Ellington Plant Sciences, located on the agricultural campus, will be expanded.
Long-term projects include renovating Estabrook Hall and Henson Hall, along with the construction of academic buildings in the Lake and Terrace Avenues areas.
The Master Plan is also committed to preserve The Hill.
"The Hill is considered by many at the university as a very special place," Catron said. "We are recommending within the Master Plan that The Hill always be treated that way, so that in the event that buildings need to be replaced, the replacement building be of a character that's appropriate to complement Ayres."
The renovation and demolition of historic buildings, along with the architectural style of newly constructed buildings, was brought up during the comments and questions section.
"One of the dialogues that has been a theme is a lot of times, people look at this and they say, 'Well, it looks like you're tearing a lot of stuff down. It looks like you're putting buildings here and there,' but this is a vision, and it's a plan," Catron said. "Not everything will fit exactly in 40 or 50 years with how it's being designed today."
This mindset of staying flexible has led the Master Plan Advisory Committee to address the static nature of the Master Plan.
"We are now having some dialogue about turning this into a living document," Cimino said. "It would be our vision not to just wait five to seven years but also to create that living document for that continuous improvement and input."
The current draft of the Master Plan will be submitted for approval to the UT Board of Trustees in June. If approved, the plan will be sent to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission before making its final stop at the State Building Commission.
For more information on the UT Master Plan, visit http://masterplan.utk.edu.