May 10, 2004

Master planners hold trio of town halls      

By Michael Terrazas

Last week the team responsible for updating Emory’s Campus Master Plan held a series of town hall meetings to brief the community on the project and solicit input as it moves into its next phase.

In three meetings—one held May 4 in WHSCAB Auditorium and two more the next day in the Math & Science Center and Goizueta Business School—the master planners explained the defining issues that are shaping the Campus Plan Update 2004 (CPU4) with a slide presentation by Jen Fabrick, director of campus planning for Facilities Management.

Those issues include:

• Density. Emory’s land holdings total some 631 acres, roughly half of which are forested areas. How densely should Emory build, and what are the land use classifications for those 631 acres?

• Environment. The University has become a leader in “green” building, and a number of groups on campus are advocating that Emory take a range of environmental issues into consideration while planning its future growth.

• Community. One of the guiding principles of the 1998 master plan was that Emory should strive to create a collegial environment that fosters intellectual community, but at the moment the University has precious few physical spaces that promote such community.

Fabrick walked attendees through a series of slides that addressed all three issues. First, she compared Emory to other urban campuses such as George Washington, Vanderbilt and Princeton universities in terms of numbers of students, on-campus populations, total building square footage and numbers of parking spaces.

Examining what to build on campus naturally is part of the master plan, but perhaps just as important, Fabrick said, is deciding what not to build and evaluating Emory’s pedestrian and open spaces. There are pleasant examples—such as the plaza beween Whitehead and the Dental School Building—and not so pleasant ones, like the campus entrance to WHSCAB or Whitehead’s south walkway.

“Emory has a history of being thought of a suburban campus, but we’re becoming an urban campus, and we need to look at the spaces between our buildings,” she said. “Keep in mind that students on campus now never saw our [interior] roadways before we did the open-space projects.”

Building attractive and inviting spaces leads directly into the issue of community. Fabrick said Emory has few spaces that lend themselves to spontaneous interaction. “People aren’t able to share those little conversations around the coffee pot that are part of our culture,” she said.

Part of the problem is indeed cultural; from extensive interviews conducted about all facets of CPU4, the planners learned about the dearth of pleasant meeting spaces, but they also heard people saying they simply didn’t have time to stop and engage in collegial banter.

“Obviously, that’s a problem that’s beyond campus planning,” Fabrick said, “but campus planning can contribute to the solution by offering spaces for interaction to occur.”

Changes are in store once the University’s food service provider changes from Aramark to Sodexho this summer. Sodexho has plans to create new meeting places such as a coffee shop adjacent to White Hall near the Administration Building, and Fabrick said the company even has offered to help with the capital costs of such a project. Other amenities are planned for Woodruff Library, the Dobbs Center and Turman Residential Center.

Improvements to Emory Village will be another important step. Fabrick said the University has proposed changes to the Alliance to Improve Emory Village’s plan to install a traffic roundabout in the village’s main intersection. In the new scheme, only the public thoroughfares—both sides of N. Decatur and Oxford roads—will feed into the roundabout. Dowman Drive would be turned into a single-direction, entrance-only gate to the University, complete with the bricked roadways and landscaping appropriate for Emory’s figurative front door, and “curb cuts” will be made from the B. Jones parking lot to N. Oxford and from Fishburne Parking Deck to N. Decatur to allow people to exit the campus.

Capital changes like these lead back to environmental concerns. Fabrick said Emory’s unused acreage is being mapped under four classifications:

• Preserved, which means spaces basically sacrosanct from development, such as Lullwater.

• Conserved, or spaces that presently are set aside but could be developed in the future.

• Managed, which are spaces currently open but on which development is planned.

• Restricted, which means spaces where development is restricted by law, such as those lying in stream buffers or floodplains.

Fabrick said the CPU4 team has spent the spring talking to various constituencies and gathering information. This summer it will assimilate that information into a draft plan; to be presented to the community in a series of prominent town halls in August and September. The completed master plan update will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in November, she said.

Anyone wishing to learn more about CPU4 can visit the project’s website at Project manager David Kalin said the site soon will feature a community discussion area similar to the one set up during last fall’s development of Emory’s vision statement. In the meantime, questions and comments can be sent to