People vs. the Pepsi truck was part of the message heard by the close to 400 staff, faculty, students and university neighbors who crammed into the Arellano Theater in Levering Hall on Sept. 30 to listen to a progress report on the creation of a new master plan for the campus.
The objects of the plan are to make the campus more aesthetically appealing while still accommodating necessary services and to provide a compass that will guide the look and shape of the university well into the 21st century.
The meeting also provided an opportunity for those in the Homewood community to comment and ask questions, an integral part of the ongoing "open process" of designing a master plan.
Adam Gross, principal of Ayers/Saint/Gross, the Baltimore architectural firm that is leading the master planning process, gave a 30-minute presentation that outlined both the strengths and weaknesses of the current campus design. Gross also unveiled the concept plan that calls for a more pedestrian-friendly university--one less infiltrated by the "spaghetti-like system of roads" that currently intersect the campus--that would be more in harmony with the existing environment and surrounding community.
The presentation gave particular attention to the issue of parking and the congestion of cars and delivery trucks throughout the campus. Gross detailed how parking, under the conceptual plan, would be confined to areas on the perimeter of the campus.
He illustrated his point by showing slides depicting how other Hopkins-sized universities have dealt with similar parking and service issues. Among the solutions shown were an underground lot, a stadium parking building with integrated bleachers and brick walkways wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles.
"If we could solve the road [problem], and solve service and traffic issues, the rest is going to be duck soup, because this campus is so beautiful," Gross said. "Service vehicles like Pepsi trucks have to get onto any campus, not just a research one. We have to do a better job of accommodating our campus visitors."
Along with a restructured roadway that would encircle campus and eliminate many of the cross roads, the concept plan also calls for better defined university entrances, a brick walkway system that links all parts of the campus, a greenway that continues from Wyman Park into open spaces on campus and a reconfiguration of Charles Street to the east.
Gross began his presentation by praising the university's existing master plan that "has served the university faithfully for the past 80 years."
James McGill, senior vice president for administration, said at the meeting that the new master plan should serve the campus equally as well. "In the end, we hope to have a plan that will serve this university for decades, literally," McGill said, "but also reflect the very best thinking of the collection of the people here now."
McGill was referring in part to the senior administration in attendance, who included William R. Brody, university president; Steven Knapp, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Herbert L. Kessler, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering; and Ralph Fessler, interim dean of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.
Gross noted, however, that both the meeting and the master planning process are not just about sketches and slides, but about what President Brody called an "interface with the community."
"This is not our plan, not Ayers/Saint/Gross' plan. This is the plan for Johns Hopkins University, which is not just for those in the front row," Gross said, referring to the seated senior administration, "but for the entire community. We really think that the process we are involved in is as important, if not more important, than the product itself. The very act of going through a broad campus plan and looking at all these issues gets a lot of people at the table who don't normally meet to talk about the future of Hopkins."
The planning process was begun earlier this summer, and Gross said that Ayers/Saint/Gross has already had extensive contact with those in both the Hopkins and Charles Village communities.
Gross encouraged attendees to have continued interaction with the master planning team and advised that anyone can send comments or suggestions regarding the process to the plan's Web site [see end of article].
After Gross' presentation, the meeting was opened up for comments, which ranged from issues of security, especially in regard to parking lots located on the edge of campus, to how Homewood can have a better physical connection with the neighboring Baltimore Museum of Art.
Gross responded by saying that the planning team will continue to interact with community leaders and campus officials to address all these concerns as the plan evolves.
The gathered crowd appeared to have a very favorable reaction the presentation, and in particular people were in agreement that the aesthetic look would be improved if they were to see fewer service vehicles and more pedestrians.
"I really like the fact that the roads don't go through the campus," said India Lowres, associate director of alumni relations. Lowres added that she is concerned about security and hopes that those areas with new parking lots or trees would have sufficient lighting to make it safe for people to walk late at night.
"But overall, I think it is a beautiful plan and a wonderful thing," Lowres said. "It's about time."