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Latest UND master plan to sync with wider campus strategy

Even with the removal of several campus buildings, it's easy to see that University Avenue bustles with activity as it spans the near-entirety of UND.

UND Sigma Chi Fraternity brothers (L-R) Joe Dronen, Zach Niederer and Parker Wakefield walk past a demolition site where Strinden Center once stood on the UND campus Wednesday. The students are wearing derby hats in recognition of the fraternity's annual philanthropic event, "Derby Days." Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
UND Sigma Chi Fraternity brothers (L-R) Joe Dronen, Zach Niederer and Parker Wakefield walk past a demolition site where Strinden Center once stood on the UND campus Wednesday. The students are wearing derby hats in recognition of the fraternity's annual philanthropic event, "Derby Days." Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Even with the removal of several campus buildings, it's easy to see that University Avenue bustles with activity as it spans the near-entirety of UND.

School leaders are now focusing on that kind of traffic-as well as to less-visible corridors and gathering points-as they work through their most recent iteration of a facilities master plan to shape the fate of the physical campus. Mike Pieper, head of university facilities, said the ongoing planning process will extend through winter and will likely be completed on a "chapter basis," with pieces wrapped up in segments.

The planning work comes at a time when the institution's needs are in some transition. Past studies of space utilization and campus footprint led to the summer demolition of seven UND buildings, with another expected next year. Those eight were part of a larger list of structures being pulled offline because of a lack of need or excessive cost.

The new master plan will be in some good company, as the university has conducted a number of facilities-related studies through the past few years, including a previous master plan finished in 2016. But he said then, unlike now, UND leaders didn't have a universitywide strategic plan to frame their work, nor any defined action steps to guide new development on campus.

"We didn't want to replicate work," Pieper said, pointing to past studies. "Our hope is to build off of what we have and come away with a more complete master plan."

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Pieper said the ongoing plan is an attempt to create such steps to bring the physical campus in line with the broader goals of the university. With the strategic plan in hand, Pieper said the facilities accompaniment will focus specifically on connecting the grounds and buildings to that wider scope, looking to such items as enhancing student experiences and creating better research environments. The plan will also take into account campus renewal efforts, such as the Coulee to Columbia initiative to revitalize the UND stretch of University Avenue, and the long-term use of buildings such as Columbia Hall. To stay on track, the planning process will be guided by a steering committee of UND executives and leaders throughout the various academic colleges.

The university has also hired the help of Sasaki, a planning and design agency with a speciality in campus settings. Past clients of Sasaki include Dartmouth College and Clemson University.

Tyler Patrick, a principal of the agency, said he and other Sasaki staff engaged with UND in July before visiting campus shortly before the start of the fall semester. His work so far has included campus visits to get a feel for the space while touching base with stakeholders. Sasaki is also approaching the plan with a data-based approach, using surveys directed at both members of UND faculty and the campus community at large to better understand how activity flows through the university. Patrick said much of what his firm brings to the table is rooted in best practices established through working with more than 400 different institutions, including flagship state universities like UND.

"I think that really helps us understand where UND is but also where it wants to go," he said.

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY AVENUE
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