Monthly Column April 2016
Refreshed Master Plan Ties Campus Closer to Natural Surroundings
You may recall that in early 2011 Dalton State unveiled a 10-year facilities master plan that would organize our campus around a central pedestrian spine running south to north linking our academic and student services buildings with residence halls and pockets of green space in between. The plan also called for construction of a second parking deck and expansion of the library and gym along with construction of a new academic building and renovation of the student center.
Five years later we find some items of the plan have been implemented, but some aspects have now changed. For example, the unanticipated public private partnership for the construction of our new residence hall has changed that part of the plan. It was a good plan and we do not want to start over completely, but we realized we needed to revisit and update it to align with our current needs and resources.
We commissioned the planning firm of Dumont and Janks to revisit the master plan. They recently presented their updated vision for Dalton State to students, faculty, and staff. The refreshed plan offers a vision for the campus that takes greater advantage of our beautiful natural surroundings and engages us more fully into the hillside west of I-75.
In addition to the north-south pedestrian spine, the new plan also calls for development of an open greenway running in front of Westcott Hall from College Drive up past the Burran Bell Tower through the quad across an existing parking lot to the edge of the hillside. The hardscaped area behind Westcott and below the bell tower would be reworked into a student plaza and terraced amphitheater, and the expanded green space could be used for campus ceremonies including convocation and graduation in addition to music festivals and Frisbee tossing.
Acting on the expressed wishes of students, the planners recommend reorienting the entry to Roberts Library from its current location on the north side of the building to the west side, opening onto the pedestrian spine. A glass front to the building would echo the architecture of Peeples Hall and would link the building more closely to the surrounding creek and woods. Likewise, planners call for replacing the empty pool area of Bandy Gym with a two-level fitness space with a glass northern exposure allowing students to overlook the campus as they exercise. Bandy Gym would mark the southern terminus and highest point of the pedestrian spine. Existing shrubs would be relocated from along the pedestrian walkway from Bandy to Brown and replaced with trees to create a welcoming, lighted hardwood forest pathway, creating a vibrant avenue of campus activities from the northern end of campus to the southern end.
The reworked plan actually adds parking spaces to the campus while removing the gravel parking lot at the southern edge of campus near the intramural field. The removal of the existing Wood Valley apartments when Mashburn Hall opens in August will provide both additional green space for two recreation fields as well as additional parking on the north end of the campus.
Because it consists of a number of smaller projects, I think the refreshed 10-year plan is a feasible one, and a very exciting one that will transform the image of the institution for current and prospective students and employees. How many colleges have the privilege of being embedded in the side of a mountain with such natural beauty? How many students can walk out of a classroom and onto a mountain trail in a matter of steps? Our future campus, framed by the natural beauty of a mountain ridge and anchored by a north-south pedestrian spine which crosses an east-west expanded greenway, will be an inviting environment for students and will support our efforts to transform Dalton State into a first choice destination college.