In the year 2073

TRU’s Campus Master Plan looks far into the future

Sean Brady, Copy/Web Editor Ω

It’s a plan that reaches as far as 60 years into the future. The Campus Master Plan attempts to illustrate how Thompson Rivers University will operate and expand in the coming years.

The plan shows several large buildings cropping up around what planners called the “campus heart,” the area around the House of Learning and Campus Activity Centre. Building types range from housing (market, student or mixed-use) to academic and retail/commercial.

Current students who bring their grandchildren back to their alma mater might still recognize a few things, however. Buildings like the Campus Activity Centre, the International Building, the science building and even Old Main (at least portions of it) are among those that may still be standing, according to the plan. Those buildings remain in the plan because of their importance to the campus network, according to Ray Wolfe, senior associate architect at Stantec.

Wolfe was joined on the town hall’s panel by two of his colleagues: urban planner Carla Guerrera and campus planning specialist Leonard Rodrigues.

Image courtesy Stantec

This image shows the final phase of the 2013 Campus Master Plan, with a number of buildings cropping up all over campus. Image courtesy Stantec Inc.

As the rest of the campus grows, one thing will not: parking. The plan envisions a self-contained “destination campus” instead. During the town hall presentation on Nov. 19, Wolfe explained the situation.

“A commuter campus requires you to drive to campus, hang out for five hours and go do your coursework, but then you drive away because you don’t live on campus or you don’t work on campus.

“Once you become a destination campus, it’s a whole new ball game. You’re living, you’re working and you’re playing on campus. And that’s the kind of campus that is envisioned in the master plan,” he said.

While student population is expected to increase, the upward trend that the university has seen in student population during the past 10 years is not projected to continue. From 2003 to 2013, which includes the school’s transition from college to university, campus capacity increased by 6,000 students.

“Currently, you have about 10,000 full-time learners on campus – we’re seeing that projection go up to 13,000 students, as well as 3,000 faculty,” Wolfe said.

After audience members raised questions over the figures and the idea that the campus will only grow by an additional 3,000 students, Wolfe noted that the figure was suggested by the steering committee, and that the expansion within the plan is mostly to do with increasing space per student.

The university currently operates at 11 square metres per student, a figure Wolfe said makes the campus “under-spaced” as a research university.

Cliff Neufeld, former VP admin and finance and the town hall’s host, said that research universities across the country usually measure between 20 and 35 square metres per student.

“We’re vastly undersized at this time,” Neufeld said.

Despite the modest increase in student capacity, the campus population is still expected to grow considerably, with market housing opportunities offered along the southern side of the university’s boundaries on the McGill corridor and on the northern boundary along the slopes. The on-campus commercial ventures are expected to “give back” to the academic segments of the university, according to Wolfe.

The market housing and retail opportunities to be built on campus will provide an additional $18 to $27 million in revenue for the university, according to plan documents.

“Let’s face it. The government doesn’t give out the kind of money it used to, and it’s a real struggle to all of us in post-secondary institutions,” he said. “So how do we think about it differently? One way to do that is to ask yourself the question: how can we generate revenue? What are the development opportunities? We think we’ve some really good spots on campus that make sense to develop market opportunities that can give back to the academic building and infrastructure.”

The Campus Master Plan has now been through four consultations and will be presented to TRU’s board of governors for initial review and comment on Dec. 6, and the decision over whether or not to adopt the plan will be made in February 2014.