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June 22, 1995

BRADFORD, looking to the future, outlines master space plan details

A $7 million addition to the Tom L. McDowell Sports Center, an $8 million addition to the Frame-Westerberg Commons student union, and a $12 million fine and performing arts center are the main projects in the first phase of Pitt's Bradford campus's (UPB) recently unveiled physical master plan.

During phase one, the first five years of the plan, UPB also plans to expand on-campus student housing by 100 beds, enlarge its parking lots and add a second entrance to the campus.

The overall goal of phase one is to prepare the campus for an expected increase in enrollment from the current level of about 1,300 students to about 1,800 students by the year 2000.

"We've tied the physical master plan very tightly to the notion of a public liberal arts college and maintaining a close interaction between faculty and students similar to that at a private liberal arts college," UPB President Richard McDowell said. "The physical master plan is geared to maximize the interaction between faculty and students, the hallmark of good liberal arts colleges." According to McDowell, the sports center and student union were chosen for expansion during phase one of the master plan because both of those buildings can be enlarged and serve double duty as classroom and office space until the fine and performing arts building is constructed.

Most of UPB's buildings were constructed when the campus had an enrollment of 700 students. Over the past nine years, enrollment at UPB has increased by more than 60 percent, according to McDowell. The 1994-95 enrollment showed a 6 percent enrollment jump to about 1,350. "Space is critical here," McDowell noted. "Our classrooms and laboratories are utilized over 90 percent of the time, from 8 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night. We just are totally out of space." As outlined by UPB Director of Facilities Management Peter Buchheit, the master plan calls for the McDowell Sports Center to be expanded by about 60,000 square feet. The addition will increase the size of the sports center from its current 23,000 square feet to approximately 83,000 square feet.

The centerpiece of the expansion will be a new multi-purpose gymnasium that includes areas for tennis and volleyball, and a walking track. The gym and track will be available for use by individual students, intramural teams and varsity sports teams.

Plans for the Frame-Westerberg Commons student union call for the addition of about 26,000 square feet to that building's current 36,000 square feet, according to Buchheit. The existing structure also will be remodeled.

When completed, Buchheit said, Frame-Westerberg Commons student union will have substantially more social gathering spaces, an enlarged dining facility, and additional student meeting rooms. UPB's current enrollment is split about 50/50 between traditional students fresh from high school who have a full schedule of classes, and non-traditional students, such as older students who attend classes on a part-time basis and commute to the campus, according to Buchheit.

"We need to create spaces for these people while they are waiting for classes," Buchheit said. "We have a significant room problem now for student groups and meeting space. The building is just way undersized." A fine and performing arts center was selected as the third major element of the first phase of UPB's physical master plan because the campus's largest auditorium seats only 325 people. Preliminary plans for the center call for a building of 60,000-65,000 square feet with a multi-purpose theatre, practice rooms, mini stages where small student productions will be performed and a technical wing for the production of videos.

"It will serve not only an academic need, but a community need here in Bradford for theatre and fine arts performances," Buchheit noted. "Our goal is to change the atmosphere of the campus with more theatrical productions." Because design work on the center has not yet begun, Buchheit declined to estimate the final size of its main auditorium.

Potential architects for the Frame-Westerberg Commons student union addition will be interviewed within the next 30 days, according to Buchheit. UPB will borrow the $7 million cost of the project and repay the debt with funds obtained through the operation of auxiliary services such as the bookstore and food service.

The McDowell Sports Center addition is a state project. Buchheit said the state will pick up its $8 million price tag and will hire its own architects. He anticipates that funds for it will be released by mid-summer.

Funding has not yet been secured for the $12 million fine and performing arts center. Buchheit said UPB officials expect the state to pick up most of the cost of that project and begin design work on it within two-three years.

No figures or details are available on UPB's plans to expand on-campus student housing by 100 beds, enlarge its parking lots and add a second entrance to the campus.

Likewise, details on phase two, the second five years of UPB's physical master plan, are sketchy. Among the items being looked at, according to Buchheit, are additional student housing, two or three new academic buildings, possibly a campus chapel, a new maintenance facility and additional alignment of roadways and parking lots.

Phase three of the master plan, 20 years into the future, is even shorter on details. Buchheit said phase three is so far into the future that it has been looked at just from the perspective of campus layout. Possible projects include more student housing and a conference center.

"The expansion of our campus in phase one is pretty definitive, based on what we are now and what we except to be in the next 2-5 years," Buchheit said. "But each building will be looked at on its own. We will be evaluating the University's enrollment and program needs every year. That will drive how fast this plan is accomplished." UPB's planning and budgeting committee set the priorities for the physical master plan. According to President McDowell, input came from traditional and non-traditional students, the faculty and staff, the UPB Advisory Board, and the Facilities Planning and Space Management departments of both UPB and the Pittsburgh campus.

The Pittsburgh architectural firm of MacLachlan Cornelius & Filoni was retained to develop the plan. The architects worked with Facilities Management divisions in Pittsburgh and Bradford to establish the parameters of the new buildings and visited other institutions of similar size to find out what they were doing. The planning group looked at sports centers, student unions, fine and performing arts centers, academic buildings, student housing and other facilities at institutions of similar size throughout the region.

"Then we weighed where we stood," said Buchheit. "That isn't to say that we need to meet or exceed others, but students expect a general parameter of facilities when they come to an institution and that helped drive the plan." In addition, the planners also were concerned about the lack of recreational space and social gathering space on campus. UPB's 60 percent growth rate over the past nine years has caused the administration to use recreational space for academic and administrative purposes.

"This is an extremely exciting time for Pitt Bradford," Buchheit concluded. "We were able to add student housing last summer. The additions to our sports center and student union certainly will add a component to the campus that is vitally needed to continue our enrollment growth and for the retention of our current students. Looking at what we are today, we feel we are a superb institution. This will just make us that much better."

–Mike Sajna

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