Friday June 11, 2004
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Tech Master Plan revised, updated

By Arcadiy Kantor Staff Writer

The Capital Planning and Space Management Department (CPSM) recently updated Tech’s Campus Master Plan. The Master Plan is a complex document, updated every five to seven years, and acts as a guide for future physical campus development.

“The purpose of a campus master plan is to help us grow smart,” said Leslie Saunders, director of CPSM. As such, the plan’s focus is outlining major goals and locating opportunities rather than specific, definite expansion plans.

“It’s a map, not a prescription, an idea of several different ways to achieve what we want to accomplish instead of one way. A master plan that is a straitjacket is a failure,” Saunders said.

The plan outlines several major focus areas for the development of the campus over the next five years. A major focus of the update is the sustainability of the campus, the goal of which is “making sure that the Georgia Tech campus is an ecologically friendly, ecologically responsible part of the Atlanta community,” Saunders said.

One major aspect of the plan is the addition of a vast amount of green space on campus. “We want to create an Eco-Commons, which dedicates about 80 acres of the campus [to green space],” Saunders said.

The Eco-Commons will be used for storm water management, but it will also include walking and biking paths. “[There will also be] places to play soccer, and pickup games of softball, and Ultimate [Frisbee] and all the other things that are just fun to do in wide open fields,” Saunders said.

Additional aspects of the plan include improved interaction with the community to gain benefits for the school. “Because we are a state institution it is very difficult for us to go out and buy property,” Saunders said. “We want to be able to partner with outsiders who want to...[develop] around campus, to make sure that those developments are beneficial, not only to the developer, but to Georgia Tech as well.”

Since the Master Plan is a long-term project, the construction it outlines often take years to materialize.

“The Material Science and Engineering building...has been planned for since 1997. And it’s only this year that all of the parts, the funding and everything else, [have] fallen into place so [the construction] can actually happen,” Saunders said, citing one example.

Several of the other goals outlined in the plan may take even longer to happen. “Ultimately we want to eliminate Tech Parkway as a street and use that as additional ground for campus growth-and move the campus boundary...to Marietta street,” Saunders said.

The 2004 update was necessitated by an increase in the number of students attending the Institute. “We have more students than we thought we would...so we have to accommodate that,” Saunders said.

The plan was compiled as a result of a series of meetings of a large committee, composed of administration, faculty, and students. CPSM also received input from several external consultants.

“We ... hired an outside specialist to help us with the accessibility issues, and [another] to help us with the sustainability issues,” Saunders said.

Students and faculty polled to date have expressed satisfaction with the Master Plan’s state. “So far the comments that we’re getting from folks are all very, very positive [like] ‘it’s wonderful, don’t change a thing,’ although we know that isn’t going to be universally true,” Saunders said.

The plan will be presented to the Board of Regents in October. “We’re using this summer as the opportunity to gather input from the campus, and then we will use that to refine and polish,” Saunders said. “What we would ask is that the students ... help us develop a master plan that is responsive to the needs of the students by giving us comments.”