Emory Report

April 12, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 27

Emory West Master Plan begins to take shape, makes debut in pair of town hall meetings

The University was treated to a preview of what may lie ahead for its newly acquired annex Emory West, as campus master planners presented their vision for the property in a pair of town hall meetings.

Held March 30 and 31 in WHSCAB and Goizueta auditoriums, the meetings were led by Adam Gross of Ayers/Saint/Gross, the Baltimore architectural firm that helped create the central Campus Master Plan, and David Clear, Campus Planning and Construction's project manager for Emory West. The two outlined general plans for a variety of features, including building size and construction, parking facilities, use of green space, maintenance and others.

First, the planners reiterated what was long suspected, that all the buildings on the property--with the notable exception of Candler Mansion--will be razed rather than renovated. This will not only save money in the long run but will provide the opportunity to create new buildings more in keeping with Emory West's distinct "neighborhood" character.

That character translates into 42 acres of lazy, rolling slopes terraced with flat expanses. A 50-foot "buffer" of trees will rim the property, which will contain an unspecified number of three- or four-story buildings providing approximately 800,000 square feet of research space: 400,000 devoted to the Emory-Georgia Tech Biotechnology Center, and another 400,000 for other Emory research programs.

"The design harmonizes with the landscape, respects the local neighborhood and supports the creative intellectual work that will occur at Emory West," said Provost Rebecca Chopp, who chairs the Emory West steering committee that is trying to determine exactly how the latter half of the space will be used. "Adam Gross and his co-workers really have designed a setting for research that will facilitate the production and transfer of knowledge in new ways in the 21st century. The plan promises a kind of environmentally sensitive and communal setting in which to work and play."

The smaller buildings will cluster around a sloped quadrangle that will offer a clear view of Atlanta's skyline to the west. That graded topography also figures into parking plans; the natural slope allows parking decks to be built underground, with several entrances and exits at various levels for easier access. When completed, the planners said the decks will hold some 1,600 cars.

One feature left over from Emory West's previous life as the Georgia Mental Health Institute is a series of tunnels that linked the various GMHI "pavilions" to the main building. These tunnels will be kept and used for maintenance purposes and are large enough to accommodate service vehicles.

Of course, just as with the main Campus Master Plan, this is a long-term vision for Emory West and will be realized in increments stretching out 10 to 50 years, depending on funding availability. Phase I of the project will involve construction of a 50,000-square-foot building and a small above-ground parking deck to hold 250 cars, which will be built on top of an existing parking lot. The buildings at Emory West will echo the colors and feel of Candler Mansion, as well as the surrounding Druid Hills and Briarcliff neighborhoods.

Visitors to the town halls raised several questions, including the state of the current sewer system on the property and whether it will continue to be used; the exact height of proposed buildings and their distance from the edges of the space; the kind and number of new trees to be planted; whether bike paths (separate from Briarcliff Road) would be built; and at what security level the biotechnology facilities will built. Clear and Gross said the questions will be a great help in continuing to develop plans for Emory West.

One of the property's residents is going forward with plans, as the new Biotech Center plans to begin this summer in selecting start-up firms to "incubate." Use of Emory West for the joint Emory-Georgia Tech center was a condition of the sale of the property from the state. As for its other uses, Chopp said the steering committee is still in the early stages of its deliberations and welcomes input from the University community.

"The committee is hard at work envisioning how we can apply the fundamental principles and assumptions of research in an "incubator" environment to the sciences, social sciences and humanities," Chopp said. "We do not want Emory West used for programs already existing or better-situated on the Emory main campus; we're presently discussing how the buildings can house new kinds of research endeavors on the edges of current disciplines, think-tanks and institutes, and ventures that partner Emory's rich intellectual resources and social, public and even commercial needs and interests."

--Michael Terrazas

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