President Outlines Upcoming Changes for Campus

It was once suggested during the administration of former Eastern Kentucky University President Robert R. Martin (1960-76) that a large “Under Construction” sign might be the most appropriate way to welcome all who set foot on campus.

After all, the Martin era was one of rapid change on the Richmond campus. All the work posed considerable trials for the growing campus community, but a new, more modern Eastern soon emerged, better equipped to tackle future challenges.

In a recent e-mail to the campus community, EKU President Michael Benson envisioned similar times ahead.

EKU’s 12th president, who assumed the post in August, discussed the razing or repurposing of several facilities, the addition of a parking garage, the improvement of athletic facilities, new signage, and the University’s top capital priority, the second phase of the New Science Building.

“As renowned architect Daniel Burnham once stated, ‘Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work … Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.

“Now is the time to think big for EKU,” Benson continued. “This is an exciting time for our University.”

A budget recently proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear included a 2.5 percent cut for all university operating budgets but also commitments for more than $520 million in capital projects and more than $700 million in agency bond approvals.

“EKU’s share of these dollars includes $66.3 million for Phase 2 of the New Science Building and agency bond approval in the amounts of $12 million for a parking structure and $15 million for athletic facility improvements, respectively,” Benson noted.

“We have also submitted an emergency request for $25 million to rehabilitate (gut and reconstruct) the Moore Building,” which suffered flood damage during a recent arctic outbreak. “Both the Governor’s Office and leadership in the House and Senate have been made aware of the dire situation we find ourselves with the Moore Building.”

Noting that the University has many ongoing deferred maintenance issues, with more looming, he said the list of proposed projects is “neither exhaustive nor finalized (but) an outline of what is currently being considered with other potential projects in the works. Timelines are fluid, with multiple moving parts in play and for some of these projects to be realized, other preparatory events needs to happen. These projects fit within the scope and plan of EKU’s 2009 Campus Master Plan, and we continue to be committed to the Plan’s design guidelines, which reinforce the campus as a memorable, historic destination that supports innovation and evolving uses.”

Benson said in the e-mail that:

·         Combs Hall will be razed at the conclusion of the spring semester, and a new entry point/gate will be created at the intersection of Barnes Mill Road and Lancaster Avenue.

·         the Lancaster Avenue tennis courts will be removed, with new courts to be constructed near the University’s current indoor tennis facility. “Plans for this site will be revealed in the near future, with some very exciting ideas for additional open space intended to be part of our efforts to beautify Lancaster Avenue.”

·         McCreary, Keith, Beckham and Miller halls will eventually be “gutted and repurposed” as the EKU Honors Quad. Details are still being refined, he added, but an effort will be made to create an Honors community amidst the more traditional architecture along Lancaster Avenue. “The timeline on this move is complicated by the fact that we are considering forming an EKU Housing Foundation … as a way to collateralize our current housing inventory to raise funds for the remodel of the Honors Quad and other structures. This move may be a few years away given the uncertainty of the timeline.”

·         Case Hall and Case Annex will be razed and replaced with a 3- to 4-level parking structure, faced with brick to mesh with the traditional portion of campus adjacent to the Keen Johnson Building. Users will be charged fees to generate the required revenue to cover the cost of bonds.

Benson added that those directly affected by razing, renovation or repurposing of buildings will be relocated to other renovated spaces on campus, possibly a renovated Moore Building or a repurposed Commonwealth Hall, which “can be reconfigured for office space and classrooms. Additional details about this project are still being considered and finalized.”

The president recently formed an ad hoc committee on campus improvements and renovation with faculty, staff and student representation. “As plans unfold, further input from each of these groups – in addition to community feedback – will be sought through building committees and college and departmental meetings. The ultimate goal of all renovations and relocations will be to improve working and learning conditions throughout campus. And how these improvements and changes impact our local community is vitally important as well.”

Plans for improving athletic facilities, Benson said, include renovations to Roy Kidd Stadium, the softball and baseball complexes, the track and field area, and Alumni Coliseum. “It is anticipated that these improvements will come through the auxiliary bonding authority proposed by Governor Beshear and paid for through the athletics revenue, a possible student fee, and private donations.”

New signage in front of campus buildings as well as new street signs are also set to be erected this spring.

Last fall, Benson announced preliminary plans for a new complex to house EKU’s College of Education and Model Laboratory School, to be located at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and the Eastern By-Pass.

 “While working amidst such renovation and rebuilding can be inconvenient,” Benson acknowledged, “we are quite literally forming a solid foundation for the next generation of Colonels.”

Published on February 11, 2014