New buildings up, old ones down. New parking. New campus lighting. New Integrated Engineering and Science Building And a Campus Green project to connect it all, eventually with as many as 1,000 healthy, noble trees adding a living exclamation point.
This is Louisiana Tech University as it prepares to mark its first 125 years – ambitious campus improvements to increase safety and beauty, to enhance learning, to ensure that future generations will enjoy what we and past generations have enjoyed.
A strong and beautiful campus has the capacity to bring diverse parts of a city together. Creating a welcoming environment – complete with ample green spaces, activities, and beauty – for area residents can also help create university champions in the community and beyond. When the most extensive greening of the campus since its founding in 1894 is complete, there will be no argument that the campus core is even more inviting, more beautiful, more functional, and safer than before.
Let’s take a quick tour of what’s new, starting in the heart of campus…
University leaders met with campus master planners in 2014.
“They recommended that we celebrate the Quad to reflect the growing scale and national impacts of the institution,” Tech president Dr. Les Guice said.
When Campus Green is completed, the Quad and Keeny Circle will connect with Scotty Robertson Memorial Gym, creating a large, tree-dotted, pedestrian friendly space, a welcoming area in the heart of campus “fostering social interactions, reflection, and relaxation,” Guice said. “The Campus Green will also more strongly connect other academic buildings like Hale Hall, Woodard Hall, George T. Madison, and the Ropp Center to the campus core.”
Parking will also be shifted from the center of the University to ensure that this Campus Green is welcoming for students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors.
The project has begun in Keeny Circle and the Quad including LED lighting and new fixtures, simplified landscaping, and decluttering: the red bricks and structures between GTM, the bookstore, and Wyly Tower will be removed to enhance accessibility. Some sidewalks will be removed and a new one will connect GTM with the bookstore; the area will get new sod, too.
Finally, this area contains a number of the Noble Trees – both established ones and new varieties – that donors pulled together to fund in early spring 2018.
A 2016 study in Illinois by a professor of landscape architecture and a doctoral student determined that students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows.
Louisiana Tech’s campus greening project has the capacity to help Bulldogs in the same way. The creation of cool, welcoming, and restful spaces is not only essential to having an unparalleled educational experience, it’s also a way to ensure our students have an environment that both challenges and supports them. Simply because of shade and beauty and openness of the Campus Green, students will have more opportunities to share time outdoors, relieve stress, and relax.
More recent research by an assistant professor in city and regional planning in California determined that American universities with the best physical campus environments tend to have stronger student retention and graduation rates, and that the quality of physical campus characteristics can impact student satisfaction and academic performance.
Not only can a beautiful campus impact student success, it can help the University reach its Tech 2020 Strategic Plan goal of enrolling 15,000 students by 2020. Though they are most often attracted first to an institution’s academic programs, students want attractive and welcoming grounds and appealing spaces to live and learn when making their college choice.
“In the first 10 minutes, (prospective students) see a parking lot, pathways, buildings and grounds, and then their decision is made,” said Phillip S. Waite, assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, in a recent discussion about the importance of creating welcoming campus facilities and grounds. “The notion does not rise to the threshold of awareness, but it’s there.”
The largest campus greening to date will not only be beautiful, it will help improve our University’s impact on the larger world. The trees and maintained landscapes and open green spaces will also absorb carbon dioxide, resulting in cleaner air.
Since 2016, 380 new noble trees have been added to the campus, putting the University more than one-third of the way toward its goal of 1,000. The dream of a beautiful, tree-filled space for learning and living is developing right before our eyes, and the campus master plan provides a basis for updates and improvements designed to create a 21st Century Campus that all Bulldogs can enjoy and be proud of.
Welcoming gateways to the University are a priority in the master plan.
Because of its historical significance, the south entrance at the California Avenue and Adams Boulevard intersection will be the first gateway enhanced. Prior to the opening of Interstate 20, this was the iconic entrance off Highway 80 to the University.
Although the particulars are not final, freshening this gateway is in the University’s overall schematic plan and is of high importance because of its significance. With new residential buildings and commons now in place in this area, the time to improve this area could be much sooner rather than later to complement the general decluttering of the campus.
The current high street lights will be removed and more pedestrian lighting will be added, along with appropriate plantings — particularly in the center core — and, potentially, new “Presidential Trees” will be added to replace trees that did not mature when added more than 20 years ago and are “out of place” in their current location.
Safety will improve with enhanced crosswalks north of the intersection at Adams Boulevard and Dan Reneau Drive, where the traffic light will be taken down and a large state-and-T painted in the intersection’s center to lead pedestrians west into the Quad and the Alumni Walkway or right down a slightly reconfigured Dan Reneau Drive, which is now four lanes.
Instead of unused pavement, much of that area will become walkways and trees and pedestrian lighting. Angled parking on both sides of the Boulevard will be replaced by only a few parallel parking spots to lessen the impact of cars and make the entrance wider and more welcoming and pedestrian friendly.
Parking on a college campus brings out strong feelings from students, faculty, and staff. New and updated lots have recently been completed or are nearing completion in time for the fall 2018 quarter.
A new lot is on the site of the old Natatorium. The large lot at the base of the Railroad Avenue pedestrian bridge — the lot is on West Mississippi behind the Sigma Nu and Pi Kappa Alpha houses and Park Place apartments — will be upgraded by Fall Quarter 2018. Soil from other sites is being used to level areas behind Hutcheson for future parking. The Dan Reneau Drive Parking Facility serves mostly Legacy Park students, and other parking lots are under current development.
Residential life improvements
Old and long-idle Jenkins, McFarland, and Hutcheson dormitories in the horseshoe of five dorms on Tech Drive are being demolished.
In their place will be intramural fields and parking; installation is to begin as soon as Jenkins, McFarland, and Hutcheson are gone.
In addition, the Campus Plan calls for the elimination of the other two dormitories in the horseshoe — Richardson and Cottingham — Mitchell on Tech Drive and the old Harper high-rise south of the Student Center.
Within the campus core, a new residential project will be finished for use in fall 2018. The brand-new Aswell Residential project creates an updated commons area with the original Aswell and Adams dorms, which will be refreshed.
The Dudley residential suites are also new for fall 2018. Also new is the tree-scaped Pearce Residential complex on California Ave., on the location of the old Pearce Lumber site (now located of Hwy. 33 on Burgessville Road). Pearce and the new Harper units make up Legacy Park and opened in September.
The Master Plan is just that – a plan – and a framework of this magnitude has many moving parts. Tech is well on its way to its 21st Century Campus goal: the creation of timeless beauty – a space that is modern, functional, safe, and spacious.
Louisiana Tech’s plan preserves the qualities of a campus that students, faculty, and community members have grown to love, and it ensures prosperity for decades to come.