Architects unveil comprehensive campus plan detailing movement

In the face of three major building projects in the next five years, the Campus Planning Committee (CPC) commissioned and recently received a consultant’s report detailing the current status of campus buildings and traffic patterns, as well as the potential impact of the implementation of the College’s strategic plan. The firm responsible for the project, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, reported their findings to the Board of Trustees on Jan. 12 and has published a 70-page report detailing their results.

The report attempts to answer four major concerns of the Campus Planning Committee.

First and foremost, the CPC identified a “need to step back and survey the broader picture, in order to gauge the impact of the projects on each other and on the campus.” The CPC hopes that by painting an accurate picture of the existing campus, it will be on the best footing to analyze the impacts of the proposed building projects.

The report also tries to ascertain the current status and future influence of circulation and parking, to foresee the relocation of departments and functions, and to take inventory of the aspects of this campus that “are valued and should be preserved.” The consultants were particularly concerned with tying together the physical plant of the College with the policies and goals of the Strategic Plan.

“Changes in policies for research and education, new financial arrangements or administrative shifts may call for changes in facilities and the pattern of campus activities,” says the introduction to the report. The consultants stress that “[t]he physical demands of these changes must be assessed.”

The report outlines and provides maps for almost every physical aspect of the campus, from analyzing traffic flows to providing maps of the 500-year flood plain, an area that is submerged approximately once every 500 years. Incidentally, the flood plain includes Towne Field House, Buildings and Grounds, and the Ice Hockey rink, connoting that all three structures could be underwater if a substantial flood occurs. The consultants also make recommendations for the future of parking, provide general ideas for campus growth, and detail circulation plans for the Theater and Dance Center, Baxter Hall and the Stetson-Sawyer additions.

In a note attached to the front of the report, Helen Ouellette, vice president for administration and treasurer of the College as well as Chair of the CPC, provides some context for the consultant’s recommendations.

“[These recommendations] provide stimulus for thought, but are intended to be further developed. In some cases they are so obviously right that they are already being realized; in others they reflect an imperfect understanding of the real options or constraints facing the College. They should not be construed in any case as statements of the College’s intent in these matters.”

Even before the report came out, the College had already begun to implement some of the consultants’ recommendations, which include moving dining services storage to an off-campus facility, building a massive 200-plus space parking facility in the field north of the Greylock quad, and moving Mather house to make way for construction of the new theatre and dance complex. Many of the plans included in the Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates report arose from discussions with the CPC and were integrated with the previous plans of the College.

Other proposals take a fresh look at the campus and provide the College with new options. The consultants found many ways to improve east/west pedestrian traffic from Greylock to Baxter and throughout the Stetson-Sawyer area. This so-called “east-west pedestrian spine” would stretch from Greylock to Stetson, “passing north of the Theater and Dance Center, then via a new path by the Children’s Center, to and through an expanded Baxter, on to Chapin, Sawyer and Stetson and eventually further east,” says the proposal. The “spine” would be anchored on either end by large, structured parking facilities, which would increase traffic along its length.

Also listed are proposals to move academic departments and administrative services into smaller houses. The consultants consider the idea that “row houses could foster small-group living options for students and/or faculty – together, in some cases?” A new building to the southeast of Stetson and a potential quadrangle formed by an expanded Sawyer and Lehman are included as possibilities.

Crucial to the report is the importance and preservation of the natural surroundings and local environmental systems. Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates also emphasized respect for the cultural heritage of the town and the historic building stock. They are also interested in preserving beautiful scenic views as well as large, open spaces.

The proposal, while giving the College many options for effective expansion of the physical plant, does not claim to have all the answers. In its conclusion, the report states its intention as “a flexible guide to an uncertain future, not ‘the final word.’”

Copies of the report are available for viewing in Sawyer and in the Matt Cole Memorial Library in Kellogg House.