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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students and faculty invited to discuss campus master plan

Students and faculty held an open forum Oct. 13 to discuss the Campus Master Plan. This plan is a project to beautify campus, add infrastructure, update existing buildings and improve the overall physical development of campus.

The plan started in 2004 and is directed by Jorge Vanegas, co-chair and dean of the College of Architecture, and Lilia Gonzales, co-chair and University Architect.

Assisting the university in evaluating the campus is the planning firm Ayers Saint Gross. The plans include ideas for more parking spaces including garages, larger open spaces and greenery for students and more connectivity between the main campus and West campus.

“This is an update where you don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Vanegas said. “When you reinvent, you destroy what you have, and this master plan wants to update what A&M has already established.”

The open forum provided a way for students and faculty to evaluate the existing plans and make suggestions of their own.

“[Students and faculty] are the users of our campus,” Gonzales said. “We really want to understand from them and what they use on a day-to-day basis, what can be improved not only from the open spaces but also the amenities on campus from outdoor spaces to interior spaces to what you like from transit.”

Ethan Harwell, urban regional planning senior, said the forum enabled him to feel connected to the plan.

“I’ve enjoyed how the planning team actually wants to get to know students and hear our comments rather than it being just a top down initiative,” Harwell said. “I hope that the plan will make campus a more enjoyable place for students to be.”

Project manager and lead planner for Ayers Saint Gross, Dana Dixon said the A&M culture was something the planning committee had to take in consideration when deciding what buildings and areas to renovate or completely rebuild.

“I think what is unique with A&M is obviously the tradition and the culture,” Dixon said. “I think these are things that have helped inform us of what we want to do, what the things are that we want to respect and what we want to conserve and maybe improve.”

For the next step of the initiative, the firm and project team will evaluate suggestions made at the forum and incorporate them into a final draft for the executive committee lead by President Michael Young to review. From here, subgroups of the project will take different areas such as transportation or landscape and implement the plan.

“This update will take [the] concept of belonging, warmth and the picture of a big family at Aggieland and expand it to the buildings and grounds of the university itself,” Vanegas said. “These plans will make students, faculty, visiting families and the people in College Station feel welcomed to the uniformity of who we are as university and project that to the world.”

This idea of renovation, however, could cause concern for students who enjoy the university exactly as it is.

“I think a lot of people have strong emotional ties to campus, myself included, so I think when people see things start to change they get upset,” Harwell said. “But I think the participatory planning process that they have going on here is to help alleviate that and make people feel involved.”

For Vanegas, the project goal is to reflect the character of A&M on the buildings and physical environment of campus.

“[The plan is] talking about the character of A&M and what the character reflects of the physical environment,” Vanegas said. “The plan brings a sense of structure that we have our eye on the future without compromising the fact that we have our eye on the past that brought A&M to where we are today.”

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