New Plan Hints Big Changes In Store for Marshall Campus - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

New Plan Hints Big Changes In Store for Marshall Campus

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By JAMES E. CASTO

For The State Journal

HUNTINGTON – Additions to Marshall University's Memorial Student Center and Twin Towers dormitory, renovations to a half dozen other buildings and the demolition of still others are suggested in the preliminary version of a new 10-year campus master plan now being drafted.

The plan also envisions changes to the traffic patterns for 3rd and 5th avenues, the east-west thoroughfares that bracket the campus.

Required by the state Higher Education Policy Commission, the 10-year plan must be completed and submitted to the commission for its approval by the end of 2013. The last such plan was put in place in 2003. Work on the new plan began in November, and the project is said to be at about the mid-point.

Marshall Chief of Staff Matt Turner emphasized that the newly released preliminary version of the plan is very much a "work in progress and subject to change as we sort through the process."

The plan is being done for Marshall by a consortium of consultants, headed by SmithGroup JJR of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mary L. Jukuri, a campus planner with SmithGroup, told an April 17 briefing on the preliminary plan that MU's future needs are seen to be additional classrooms and research labs, a Memorial Student Center expansion, assembly and exhibit space, additional recreation space, an outdoor track and baseball stadium and additional residence halls "for replacement and future growth."

The preliminary plan suggests that MU's three oldest dormitories, Hodges Hall, Holderby Hall and Laidley Hall, be demolished. Hodges, Jukuri noted, is vacant and already slated for demolition later this year. The dorm rooms lost as a result of the demolitions could be replaced with the construction of additional rooms at Twin Towers.

There's already a need for additional space and facilities at the Memorial Student Center, Jukuri said, and that need can only increase as the university's enrollment grows.

Noting that neither 3rd nor 5th avenues are currently carrying traffic at their full capacity, planners may recommend reducing each to three lanes rather than four. The planning team noted that pedestrians often find it difficult to cross the two avenues, and removing one lane would provide room for infrastructure improvements in the name of safety. 

Students and campus visitors who complain about never being able to find a campus parking spot will find little to cheer about in the preliminary plan. Marshall's current 4,300 parking spaces are more than adequate for a school its size, Jukuri said, noting that not all the current lots and garages are being fully utilized. Increased utilization might be obtained from revising the way parking is regulated, she said.

The planners termed current bus service inconvenient, with long wait times between buses, and indicated they have met with the Tri-State Transit Authority to discuss possible route and scheduling changes.

Jukuri praised the appearance of the core campus as "iconic" and "high quality" but said she and the other members of the team see an opportunity for landscape improvement at the east end of the campus.

When completed the plan will address not only the future needs of the university's Huntington campus but also its South Charleston campus and its Mid-Ohio Valley and Teays Valley centers.