Emory Report

December 7, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 14

Realizing goals for new campus construction takes funding, environmental planning

As the building projects reported on in last week's issue of Emory Report come to fruition, many hours of "sweat equity" will go into their design and construction. But along with those labors are other, less visible ones. How do buildings such as these get financed, and what will be their eventual impact on the community at large--not just in terms of physical design but in terms of traffic patterns and quality of life?

"People like to believe that campuses are quiet places," said President Bill Chace, but Emory will be anything but that in the next few years, and Chace knows well the toll this much construction will take. Still, he said, "short-term investment now pays off in the long term for Emory.

"I just don't see any way that we can't do these things. To recruit the faculty we need, we need to build the lab space and other arenas. To recruit and retain people in the performing arts, we need to build the right facilities. To maintain our standing as a health sciences center, we absolutely need to have a cancer center and certain other facilities," he added.

Some eight major buildings with an approximate total cost of $243 million are expected to be constructed across campus between now and the year 2001. They will support programs in the Arts & Sciences and research and patient care in the health sciences. Financing for these projects comes from multiple sources, including the University's own funds. But philanthropy will play a large role too--especially for basic and health sciences initiatives.

"Emory has received a pledge of financial support from the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Fund that will provide sufficient funds, when added to our matching funds, to enable the University to build the cancer center building, the Whitehead Research Building and the buildings making up the University's Science 2000 initiative," said Chace. Over the next four years, some $94.9 million in matching funds will go toward their construction.

Matching funds are typically a percentage of monies added to the current endowment spending rate. Endowment spending is now at 4 percent; matching funds have recently added another .75 percent to the total. This year's matching funds went to design costs for the buildings only, said Edie Murphree, associate vice president for administration.

"With our own resources we are going to construct the new nursing school building," Chace said. The Yerkes' vaccine center will be built with University funds and with funds from the federal government. As for the Performing Arts Center, Chace said, "it's very important that people understand we're moving ahead with the design plans and so forth, but we're still seeking support from within the donor community and building up our own resources to fund it."

Building a bigger community

Plans for these major projects and other "smaller" construction that will dot the campus over the next five years will, early on, find their way to the University Senate's committee on the environment (COE). There committee chair Bill Size and his colleagues look at the long-term environmental impact of construction and the buildings themselves on the quality of life at and around Emory.

Emory has an unprecedented number of buildings going "online" in the next few years, said Size, director of the geosciences program. "What concerns our committee is that projects online before the master plan were kind of held back," he explained. "Then [master plan architect] Adam Gross made recommendations for sites for other needs. Now we are faced with a number of construction projects, many more than we've ever had."

Like most on campus, members of the COE are particularly concerned with parking and traffic congestion. The new biomedical "triangle," composed of the Whitehead Research Building, the Rollins Research Building, the Rollins School of Public Health and the nursing school, and the cancer center located near Emory Clinic, will shift more employees toward the Clifton corridor, already one of the most heavily traveled streets in Atlanta.

And before the first employee sets foot in the building, construction and the traffic it generates will take up a lot of room. As with any building project, space will have to be found to accommodate "staging" areas for crews and supplies in what is a relatively tight area. "Coordination will be important to keep occupants of that triangle comfortable during construction," said Charlie Andrews, assistant vice president for health sciences planning and construction, who also sits on the Senate's environmental committee.

Once employees move into the triangle, it's clear the Michael Street deck will not hold the overflow. Size, agreeing with the master plan architects, said, "Putting any more parking decks on campus is not a solution." But he added that the planning process shouldn't "short circuit the environmental impact of where a building sits. That needs to be done at the earliest stages with very accurate studies on the number of people expected to work in these buildings." Then administrators could adequately plan for parking and traffic patterns, Size said, "and perhaps have an incentive for parking further away from campus." The new Capital Project Development Process recently implemented by Facilities Management will incorporate environmental studies in the early planning of future buildings, Size said.

His committee also looks at the impact of new buildings on the natural environment in and around Emory. A number of projects, including the new Luce Center and the expected reconstruction of University Apartments, now border Lullwater park. As long as buildings edge nearer to the park's periphery, what difference does it make to the environment? Plenty, said Size.

"Any wildlife is pushed farther back from the park's borders," he said. What's more, construction affects drainage and erosion patterns in and around the park.

Lullwater is one of the last places for a contemplative stroll close to work, Size said. "It's hard to put a price tag on that."

--Stacey Jones

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