UTC updates master plan, shows it at forum

UTC updates master plan, shows it at forum

March 22nd, 2012 by Perla Trevizo in News

Roy Williams, left, and Monika Groppe look at a map before the beginning of Wednesday's presentation at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga held a public forum to talk about the campus's latest master plan draft at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Guests were invited to look over printouts of plans from firm Perkins and Will and listened to a presentation by some of the group's members.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

Document: UTC master plan building use

UTC master plan building use

IF YOU MISSED IT

Another public discussion about the proposed master plan will be held at 9 a.m. today in the Chattanooga Room at the University Center.

There will be other public forums held in April before the plan is presented to the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, followed by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the State Building Commission.

There's always tension with planning and UTC's latest master plan is no exception.

Wednesday's public forum to discuss the latest version of the master plan that will be used to plan for about 15,000 students in the next decade included many questions that ranged from parking and housing to the potential impact to local communities.

"We are trying to make sure [these plans] serve the needs of the university, but also minimize the negative impact of surrounding communities," said Richard Brown, chief financial officer for UTC, after the two-hour meeting at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

And growth, if planned for correctly, is good, he said.

"Metropolitan universities, when they are developed well, become a very good value add for cities," he said.

The latest plan includes housing along Martin Luther King Boulevard; parking garages; academic buildings along Palmetto Street, close to Erlanger hospital; apartment-style housing along Vine Street; and an athletic district by Engel stadium on the east side of Central Avenue.

UTC is one of the fastest-growing campuses in the UT system and has a shortage of 1,200 housing beds. The plan includes an additional 3,000 beds and 5,000 parking spaces over the next 10 to 15 years, Brown said.

But there are still some things that need to be ironed.

Chatrice Barnes, 21 and a senior at UTC, said she commends the university for the plan and wanting to expand, but at the same time is worried students' concerns will fall through the cracks. "They are listening, but I don't know if anything is going to done about it," she said.

Having a place to study and dine 24 hours a day are things students care about, she said, not if some street is going to be connected to the freeway, referring to the expansion of Central Avenue.

"I want to see more housing options, better parking options because it's a mess and better facilities and student support services," she said.

Brown said those are all things this plan hopes to accomplish.

"I always say, at the end of the day we build university campuses for students and learning," he said. "This plan produces great academic spaces, green and recreational spaces, but also takes into consideration traffic and how we use the university."

Amanda Lagoo wanted to learn more about how the plan may affect the Fort Wood neighborhood.

"We want to know what's going on in the city," she said. "Fort Wood is the historic heart of Chattanooga, and we don't want [the university] to take it."

She said the neighborhood has been involved in the planning process, and "it seems they are hearing us."

The first phase of the plan will focus on housing, which is all on property owned by the university, Brown said.

"Subsequent phases included property that needs to be acquired, and we'll have those conversations then, and if we can't acquire that property then we'll change the plan," he said. But he added that a plan such as this one requires private-public partnerships.

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