The University of Akron refocusing it's vision of the campus of the future, with a fresh view of what "Academic Way" will look like. The Board of Trustees approving the plan's Master Guide Plan today, targeting development of a "main street" on campus that provides a greater opportunity to interact.
It also opens wide the discussion on replacing the James A. Rhodes Arena with a new arena, either on-campus near InfoCision Stadium or at a downtown location near Canal Park. City officials have long argued the downtown location would pose a greater benefit to the overall community, but University officials have privately favored a campus location more convenient to students and as a connection for fans to the University.
It's a plan to further connect the various schools even though they're now spread out across the campus. It also takes into account student experiences and sharing the campus with the community by building a pedestrian-based main street connecting the campus with downtown Akron, including a "people mover" for the one mile between the University's classrooms at the Polsky Building garage from the University's east parking deck.
The Master Plan also envisions neighborhood building off-campus, especially around Buchtel Field and Quaker Square. Artist renderings of Buchtel "before and after" seen at left and below, are courtesy the University of Akron and Sasaki and Associates.
- - -
(University of Akron) The Board of Trustees of The University of Akron accepted an enhanced master guide plan developed by Sasaki Associates of Boston and presented to the Board by President Luis M. Proenza, Ted Curtis, Vice President of Capital Planning and Facilities Management, and Mike Sherman, Senior Vice President, Provost and Chief Operating Officer. The plan, which builds upon the original 1999 master guide plan, presents a vision for the campus closely aligned with the mission and aspirations for growth set forth in Vision 2020, the University’s strategic plan endorsed by the Board in January, 2012.
The guide plan touches the full spectrum of university activity: academics and research, residential life, athletics and recreation, open space, transportation and parking, energy and infrastructure, and sustainability. Stakeholders representing many constituencies – including students, faculty and staff, the City of Akron, University Park Alliance and the Board of Trustees – collaborated extensively in the planning process through many public forums and meetings.
Rather than focusing on specific projects, the plan sets forth principles behind a structure for campus change: learning and research; connecting and partnering. These principles will guide decisions, from restoration and rehabilitation of current campus structures to the planning and building of new ones.
Central to the plan is the creation of the Academic Way, essentially a “main street” that promotes academic interaction across disciplines, a focal point for the student experience, and an opportunity to improve physical connections within campus and with the community.
Some specific highlights of the master guide plan include:
- The Academic Way links important campus addresses like Bierce Library, Zook, Ayer, Crouse, Knight, Goodyear Polymer Center, School of Law, College of Business, Polsky and downtown Akron. Many of these buildings are prime candidates for renewal and adaptive reuse;
- The Academic Way is a pedestrian-based “spine” connecting the campus with downtown Akron. An efficient low-impact people mover is envisioned to travel the one-mile route from the east parking deck to the Polsky garage;
- To foster a 24/7 learning environment, on-campus residential districts will be “densified” and partnership opportunities leveraged to strengthen off-campus neighborhoods, particularly in the southern neighborhood around Buchtel Field and at Quaker Square;
- Some academic programs may be relocated to foster academic synergies. For example, the potential for creating a health professions “district” might bring together programs in nursing, family and consumer sciences, nutrition, and sports sciences and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Existing programs in the Polsky Building, such as language pathology and audiology, could remain downtown --- so that the health professions become identity anchors to both the eastern and western gateways of the Academic Way;
- The plan calls for building use to support multidisciplinary collaboration, flexibility for adaptive reuse over time, and sustainability in energy consumption;
- Two potential scenarios were identified for replacing the James A. Rhodes (JAR) Arena. The first is to build the new arena in a consolidated athletics district near InfoCision Stadium. The second option is to partner with the city to attract appropriate funding to develop a new arena downtown, opposite the Akron Aeros baseball stadium on South Main Street.
More than a decade ago, University officials worked with Sasaki Associates of Boston on a plan accepted in 1999 that set the groundwork for the New Landscape for Learning initiative, which has included the addition of 20 new buildings, 18 major additions, acquisitions and renovations, and 34 acres of new green space.