Tuesday, October 19, 2010

UDC Invites Community Input on Campus Master Plan

Earlier tonight, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) held an open house to discuss the school’s growth and development.

The open house was the first in a series of meetings during which UDC hopes to solicit the neighboring community’s perspective on the following matters: the growth of the Van Ness campus; the campus’ transition into a 4-year flagship university; the inclusion of a student center and on-campus student housing; and enhancement of campus accessibility and visibility

“Our perception is that the university is a valuable but underutilized community resource,” said Doug McCoach, an architect and developer who is currently working on UDC’s first master plan.

A land-grant university, UDC was established before a master plan was required.  The city now requires the school to produce one, which will undergo District and federal approval.  UDC is aiming to complete its first master plan within six to twelve months.  The preparation and adoption timeline is motivated, in part, by funding set to expire in 2012 for construction of a student center on the Van Ness Campus.  The university must have a master plan before the D.C. Board of Zoning will pass permits.

The master plan will also accommodate the university’s long-term strategy of relocating the law school to a downtown site and continue efforts to shift community college programs to multiple sites in the District.  The university has already taken steps to provide community college programs in each of the District’s Wards.  In addition, the master plan will take into consideration the university’s goals of transforming from a commuter college to a residential campus and seeking to increase the number of four-year degree seeking students.

“We want our students to invest in this community, and students have a greater sense of pride, make friends, and have a richer experience when they are on campus,” UDC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Graeme Baxter said.

The university’s leadership views the master plan as a tool to establish “very clear communications with local communities, a tool the university uses to guide development and decisions regarding facilities.”

The university has identified the following community concerns to be addressed: off-campus housing, public access to campus amenities (including the tennis courts), natatorium renovations, pedestrian safety, and environmental stewardship.

“One of our goals with this plan is to maximize transit options,” McCoach said, “We are in the process of getting parking assessments and do not want to burden Connecticut Avenue with additional traffic.”

Baxter said the master plan is not looking at expanding parking.  She also said the university has two staff members looking at sustainability issues and the school has already received a grant for green roofs. 

Neighborhood residents are invited to share their thoughts about the university’s master plan at the next UDC open house. We’ll keep you posted of the date and time.

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