Campus master plan imagines what Virginia Tech might look like in 2047
November 8, 2018
Through the Beyond Boundaries visioning process, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands challenged the university community to imagine the higher education landscape a generation or two into the future.
Following that effort, and as the university is engaged in a strategic planning process, the 2018 Campus Master Plan — approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors on Monday — will guide current and future campus leaders as they imagine and develop the Blacksburg campus and the university’s 11 agricultural research and Extension centers through 2047.
“The campus master plan is not a blueprint for future development, rather it is a flexible, adaptable, and evolutionary document that will help university leadership make good decisions in the future,” said Vice President for Operations Sherwood Wilson. “The plan sets forth principles for smart growth while preserving and enhancing the unique character of the main campus.”
The campus master plan, Wilson said, includes a deep analysis of supporting infrastructure, such as transportation, accessibility, utilities, and stormwater, as well as university assets that exist beyond Montgomery County.
“The campus master plan informs growth, but it is not a capital outlay plan,” said Charles T. Hill, chair of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors Buildings and Grounds Committee and retired SunTrust Bank executive. “The campus master plan provides key principles and, in some cases, broad recommendations for making decisions about particular building siting, design, and anticipated infrastructure needs.”
Virginia Tech already has robust processes in place to support the identification, prioritization, funding, planning, and approval of individual infrastructure and construction projects. These processes engage a broad range of community members and may involve years of work. Each project begins with a specific program or unit identifying a teaching, research, or support need and continues through Board of Visitors approvals for funding, design, and construction.
Over the past 20 years, facilities on the Blacksburg campus have grown by 4.6 million gross-square-feet, and the university anticipates an additional 7 million gross-square-feet in facilities growth over the next 30 years.
The development of the 2018 Campus Master Plan began more than two years ago and was guided by the two campus master plan committees, which included students, faculty, staff, alumni, Town of Blacksburg officials, and members of the university’s Board of Visitors. Input and feedback from university and community members were collected throughout the process through nearly 200 presentations and town hall-style meetings.
“This campus master plan is unprecedented for Virginia Tech in its depth and breadth,” said Liza Morris, interim assistant vice president for planning and university architect. “It begins to imagine ideas, including total campus accessibility, sustainability, mixed and flexible use teaching and research environments, collaboration hubs, and intersections of campus and town.”
The comprehensive nature of this plan and the multiple visioning and strategic planning processes that occurred in tandem with the plan’s development have resulted in additional plan elements. A supporting plan for the Roanoke Health Sciences and Technology District is under development, and a plan to define the university’s footprint in the National Capital Region is now underway.
At the highest level, the campus master plan seeks to define opportunities to create mixed-use and flexible learning environments and indoor and outdoor “collaboration hubs” that bring students, faculty, and staff together for teaching, learning, and social interactions; address effective ways to integrate the campus with the Town of Blacksburg; promote the health and well-being of the campus community; and envision “complete streets” that accommodate pedestrians, vehicles, and other forms of transportation, such as bicycles.
The master plan also focuses on “access for all.” The goal, over time, is to establish a network of barrier-free routes or pathways for use by all members of the campus community. This will require strategies for addressing the significant topographic conditions of the campus and other barriers identified in an accessibility assessment completed earlier in conjunction with the master planning process.
Among the proposals in the plan is a new Western Perimeter Road that would ultimately connect Prices Fork Road near the Visitor and Undergraduate Admissions Center to Southgate Drive.
The plan organizes campus development opportunities in six broad areas:
- Central Spine: The area extending from Alumni Mall to the Drillfield to the Duckpond area; to ensure the preservation of this iconic part of campus and that future growth builds from it.
- Agriculture Belt: To preserve the land situated between the proposed Western Perimeter Road and U.S. Route 460 for use in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the veterinary college.
- Campus Districts: To manage future growth around smaller areas that function as a neighborhood; campus common space would be a part of each district to allow for community gatherings and collaborative learning spaces.
- Tech and Town: To define those intersections and create opportunities that foster collaboration and interaction; the proposed Creativity and Innovation District is one example of this concept.
- Infinite Loop: A two-mile fully accessible pathway that links all campus districts.
- Green Links: Pedestrian-friendly, fully accessible routes that integrate landscaping and other environmental elements to further promote campus mobility between districts.
Perhaps the most transformative proposal within the 2018 Campus Master Plan is the idea to convert Cowgill and Burchard halls into a campus commons/student center space and relocate the College of Architecture and Urban Studies to the Creativity and Innovation District near what is now Squires Student Center and the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson-Brown.
“The thinking behind the conversion of Cowgill Hall into a campus commons space is closely tied to the current development of that region of campus,” said Morris. “With the recent construction of Goodwin Hall and the Classroom Building, and the future construction of the Multi-Modal Transit Facility, the Undergraduate Science Laboratory, Hitt Hall and Intelligent Infrastructure Complex, and the renovation of Holden Hall, more and more students are being drawn to this part of campus. Given the anticipated increase in student activity in that area, new spaces will be needed for students to congregate and gather. Existing and proposed facilities lend themselves to this transformation.”
The proposed relocation of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies would infuse creative and design-oriented students and faculty into the proposed Creativity and Innovation District.
The campus master plan also includes stormwater management, re-forestation, and preservation opportunities. The plan specifically calls for the university to preserve, protect, and manage the old growth forest near Lane Stadium (commonly referred to as Stadium Woods) as articulated in the university’s 2016 Forest Stewardship Plan.
The campus master plan sets a vision for protecting Virginia Tech’s land-grant missions while providing a robust and adaptable campus infrastructure to support continued growth in transformational research and community engagement across the commonwealth. More information about the 2018 Campus Master Plan and the many supporting documents that informed the plan can be found online.