Building for Campus and Community

Building for Campus and Community

A growing number of institutions and their surrounding communities are approaching facilities from a shared-use perspective.
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Come one, come all: That's the concept behind a trend gaining momentum, as institutions of higher ed open facilities to the community. But shared use isn't just about open doors. Some IHEs are partnering with local public entities to fund, design, and operate buildings jointly.

The financing piece is a major motivator. "Public bonds are not granting the enormous funding opportunities that once existed, and rising construction costs are hamstringing the ability of an institution to grow on its own," observes Shannon Rydell, a design director at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting.

"Often schools can get shared funding for capital expenses and sometimes even operating expenses," says Joseph C. Rizzo, a principal at Hillier Architecture. Construction and operating costs are minimized because facilities aren't duplicated on or near campus.

And with facility use maximized, a building can serve "a greater number of people for the dollars expended," Rydell adds.

Rizzo recognizes another reason for today's interest in shared use-the opportunity to grow "smart." With buildings representing 70 percent of electricity consumption in the country and 136 tons of building-related construction and demolition debris generated annually, shared- or joint-use facilities embrace sustainability.

Town/gown thoughts also come into play. These projects help build good will, so when zoning approvals and other needs arise, the college seems "like a kinder, gentler '800-pound gorilla,' " says Rizzo. Not to mention, IHEs are at their core key elements of the public realm, Rydell notes. "This makes them great candidates to achieve curricular and social agendas while fostering a strong connection to the communities that depend upon their existence."

According to campus architecture experts, these facilities can work for nearly any institution type. Tom Pene, senior principal at Boora Architects, says, "The key is to find the common ground between community and academic needs."

Shared-use projects are by no means easy. Take the San Jos? State University (Calif.) and San Jos? Public Library's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, for one. Building the $180 million, eight-story library, which opened in 2003, "absolutely consumed us for three years, " says SJSU President Don Kassing.

In planning, deal with potential issues "as much as you can before the fact rather than after the fact," advises Ruth Person, former VP for academic affairs at Angelo State University (Texas), which partnered to build the university-owned, $5.5 million San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and Education Center in 1999. Partnerships may bring negotiations regarding different construction standards, design considerations, and usage policies to the table.

"A foresighted analysis of contractual obligations between the organizations is critical for smooth sailing," concurs Terry Calhoun, director of media relations at SCUP.

The agreement between Nova Southeastern University (Fla.) and the Broward County Board of Commissioners for their Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center, which opened in 2001, was 54 pages long, notes Library Director Harriett MacDougall. "It's very important that the agreement document be carefully crafted and that you stick to it."

Besides the obvious question about funding, Calhoun, Tom Pene of Boora Architects, and Malcolm Holzman of Holzman Moss Architecture offer these key planning questions:

How much does the community need this type of facility?

Who gets to use the facility and at what hours?

Who will handle operations, maintenance, and other ongoing costs and responsibilities? (One partner? A third party?)

What responsibilities and rights does each party have if the relationship were to end?

Is all this effort worth it? "It was one-and-a-half times the work, but there were at least one-and-a-half-plus times the benefits," says Person, now Indiana University Kokomo's chancellor. Kassing speaks about SJSU's library in terms of enriched town/gown relationships; the groups discuss other possible partnerships regularly. "We have this enormous pride in what we did together," Kassing says. And at Nova, serving the whole community has worked out even better than expected. With children, parents, students, and seniors there on any given day, says MacDougall, "it's what a library should be-everybody using the wealth of resources."

Motivations: To create a downtown arts campus, attracting students and faculty as well as helping to revitalize downtown Columbus. Previous projects included the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts (which houses CSU's music department), student apartments, and continuing education/outreach centers.

Timeline: Construction of RiverPark began fall 2004; complex completed end of 2006

Project cost: $35 million (about $65 million has been invested by CSU in downtown Columbus in the past decade)

Funding: Private support from capital campaign-successful in part because local arts organizations were involved in the project, rather than out promoting their own separate efforts

An inside look: RiverPark has two theaters; a lighting lab; a costume shop; a design studio; woodworking spaces; an art gallery; and art study, work, and display spaces. The 246,000-square-foot complex serves about 500 art and theater students and the greater community. Companies visiting the city are attracted to the arts culture, and internationally known artists and entertainers have spent time in classrooms as part of their tours. CSU President Frank Brown says, "We are getting public accolades that just send chills up my spine."

Motivations: Create a library that's more than just a place for quiet reading and reflection, as well as offer spaces (some open 24/7) for small and larger groups to meet. Situate the building at the campus center and welcome community use.

Timeline: Construction to start spring 2007; expected completion May 2009

Project cost: $46 million (estimate)

Funding: Philanthropic donations, state and federal dollars

An inside look: Goucher events are already free and open to the public, but the Athenaeum will allow for more speeches, forums, concerts, and theater productions involving the community, says President Sanford "Sandy" Unger, adding that the building will "fit in but stand out" on campus. Since the immediate vicinity has no visitor parking, the building has "multiple 'fronts' that face not only the campus's main pedestrian axis but also the approach from parking and the campus loop road," notes Ken Kraus of the Hiller Architecture project team. Inside, the Athenaeum's layout is such that library users won't be interrupted by gatherings taking place in the community open forum area.


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