Indiana, PA - Indiana County

IUP's long-range plan calls for larger, greener campus

by SAM KUSIC skusic@indianagazette.net on December 26, 2010 12:00 AM

Earlier this month, Indiana University of Pennsylvania handed a diploma to almost 1,000 students, offered them some parting words of encouragement and let them loose into the world.

Some may never again set foot in Indiana Borough. But should they ever revisit their alma mater 20 years from now, what might they find?

In the hopes of university officials, a campus that's larger, greener and, well, just plain better.

That is the vision for the campus they've laid out in a 20-year master plan, which offers a potential way forward for the 135-year-old institution.

If the plan comes to fruition as it is written now, anyone who returns in 2030 will find the university's northern and southern campus connected via a central bus and walking path, open lawns and pedestrian malls aplenty, several new academic buildings and new support buildings. They'll also find the campus has been better linked to downtown Indiana.

All for a cost estimated to be the hundreds of millions.

The plan envisions three phases of growth, the first of which is to take place in the next five years.

The second phase is to occur over the five years following that, and third phase will be in the 10 years after.

Though the plan calls for numerous construction projects and additional studies, university officials said the first place they intend to start is with construction of a new classroom building for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. That building, roughly 100,000 square feet, is to go up along Grant Street, across from the new residence halls and on the lawn between Sutton and Clark halls.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is paying for the building, estimated to cost $37.1 million and due for completion probably sometime before next fall's freshmen graduate. The state's Department of General Services, which is overseeing construction, is in the process of selecting an architect.

Once the building is finished, the university will tear down Keith and Leonard halls, which house humanities and social sciences now, and build in their place a new science classroom building, estimated to cost $73.4 million, also paid for by the state.

Also in the first phase is the acquisition of the remaining Kovalchick Corp. property along Wayne Avenue and construction of a $21.6 million hotel next door to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

The hotel has been on the books since at least 2007, but its development has stalled as the university, and more specifically, the Foundation for IUP, have struggled to figure out how to pay for it. The hotel was to have opened at about the same time as the Kovalchick Complex, which is scheduled to open its doors in March.

Dr. Cornelius Wooten, vice president for administration and finance, said construction of the two academic buildings will create a domino effect that will set the rest of the plan in motion.

So in the sixth to 10th years, the university might see a much heavier dose of construction as it proposes roughly $238 million in projects.

There's about $59.1 million for renovations to Stapleton Library and Breezedale, Whitmyre, Elkin and Weyandt halls; $52.5 million for campus housing for graduate and nontraditional students; a $35 million mixed-use parking garage at Wayne and Locust streets; $15 million for a new dining hall; $7 million for a 400-seat performance hall; and $15 million for a cultural center.

And beyond that, there are additional renovations to other buildings and Memorial Field House, the addition of an indoor track, an academic building on the south campus and replacement of the Hadley Union Building parking lot with a big lawn.

Woven into the plan are elements of conservation and sustainability. Overall it encourages walking and riding a bus over driving a car. And the buildings are to be built following certain environmentally friendly standards. The plan provides for green landscapes, expanding the campus arboretum.

Officials stressed that the plan doesn't call for building simply for the sake of building. They said the projects all support the university's overall mission -- ensuring that students receive a top-notch education.

And of course, there is nothing saying that the plan will bear out as written. It is, after all, merely an idea.

"It's an opportunity plan. These are not mandates," said Douglas Kozma, a principal and senior campus planner with planning and design firm JJR LLC, of Ann Arbor, Mich. The firm was commissioned in July 2009 to write the plan for the university.

Kozma and university officials said the plan is meant to be periodically reviewed and updated as the university's needs and resources change.

Among its biggest considerations is cost, given the university's current financial problems. But Wooten stressed that no one piece of the plan will proceed until funding for it has been lined up, a lesson learned from the Kovalchick Complex project.

The university, then under the leadership of former President Dr. Tony Atwater, broke ground on the project before it had the money in hand. As a result, the university has had to borrow $34 million, debt that is contributing to the budget difficulties.

The master plan is based on many other long-range plans the university already has drafted, such as its five-year strategic plan, the 2010 academic plan, the student housing master plan, the parking master plan and the athletics master plan.

Despite all the plans on the table, they weren't "speaking" to each other, Kozma said. The master plan, however, corrects that, putting all the ideas into a single document and allowing the university to proceed in a coherent direction.

The university hasn't yet released the full text of the plan, only the executive summary. The full plan, which cost the university about $400,000, should be available early in 2011, officials said.

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