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Marshall University's preliminary master plan includes demolishing, renovating buildings

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Preliminary ideas for Marshall University's 10-year master plan include demolishing and renovating buildings to provide more high-tech classrooms and research space, expanding housing and athletic facilities and making improvements to parking and pedestrian safety.

Representatives from SmithGroup JJR, a Michigan-based architectural firm, presented Huntington community members and Marshall students and faculty a first glimpse at some of the recommendations that could be made in September, when the draft of the master plan will be finalized.

SmithGroup is already assessing the condition of eight buildings on campus, and is exploring the demolition of the vacant Hodges Hall as soon as this summer. Plans for demolition of Holderby and Laidley halls also are possibilities for new student housing facilities.

"Every campus needs to look at providing the best facilities they can so that they can provide the best education they can," said Mary Jukuri, principal of SmithGroup. "Facilities help support education -- especially advanced technology classrooms, and the physical environment can really help support the mission of a university in terms of providing more research facilities and access to students across the country.

"The core of the campus right now is beautiful, but we'd like to see that character and landscape quality on other parts of campus as well."

While the student-parking spot ratio is average among its peer universities, an overhaul of Marshall's current parking structure also will be considered as part of the master plan because parking now "is never located in the right place," Jukuri said.

"You can never find a parking spot," she said. "We have enough parking for the number of users, but the spaces aren't utilized."

SmithGroup is also working with transportation officials to explore the possibility of modifying the roadways near the downtown campus so that there are safer pedestrian walkways and easier connectivity. Pedestrians currently have trouble crossing Third and Fifth avenues, officials said.

Jordan Wooldridge, Marshall's student government business manager, said he's most excited about what the new facilities and possible athletic renovations could do for the current and future student body.

A new track field and baseball stadium could be in the works.

"By adding to campus structures such as athletic facilities and classrooms, we can expand our academic and athletic programs and really promote more students to get involved and also encourage more students to come to Marshall in the future," he said. "It's important for students to know what the university has in store for the next 10 years."

Students, community members, staff and alumni have been able to submit their feedback and ideas throughout the planning process at www.marshall.edu/mplan.

"It's like a virtual town hall. It's an interactive website where students and the community can take surveys, answer questions, identify issues with the campus and post their own ideas," Jukuri said. "We've already used the feedback and have been able to pass the ideas and suggestions onto [university officials], and they've already started implementing some of those ideas."

Creating the master plan is a five-phase, 11-month process that started in December. SmithGroup expects to present its preliminary recommendations to the state Higher Education Policy Commission in November.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com


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