A significant portion of the new Homewood campus master plan is about to make the leap from the drawing board to physical reality.
President William R. Brody announced at a town meeting in Shriver Hall on Friday that an anonymous donor is backing an ambitious effort to transform the outdoor space across the majority of the campus.
The donor wants to make it happen over the summer, Brody says. In just 90 days, from just after commencement to just before freshman check-in on Labor Day weekend, construction crews will swarm over swaths of campus covering about 24 acres, from University Parkway south to Shriver Hall, and from the AMR quad west to Decker Garden and the Bloomberg Center.
They'll uproot asphalt sidewalks and roads, and lay down brick walkways in their place. They'll implement a plan to take most cars and trucks from the core of campus, diverting deliveries and dropoffs to areas nearer the perimeter. They'll install new landscaping in the quads, with consistent lighting fixtures and benches.
The donor, Brody says, "has put his resources on the table and challenged us to transform Homewood into the finest urban campus in the nation.
"If you're going away this summer, take some 'before' photographs when you go," Brody suggests. "By the time you get back, our already lovely campus will be nothing short of magnificent."
Drafting of the master plan began last spring and won't be completed until May. But hundreds of hours of open forums, committee meetings and brainstorming sessions have resulted, Brody says, in a consensus that, as impressive as Homewood is, its overall appearance and ambience are not yet equal to the university's stature.
That consensus, he says, allows this summer's full-court press to upgrade campus outdoor space, even as final details of the rest of the master plan are completed.
"The concept of a serene, pedestrian-friendly campus with a signature design and a beauty all its own caught the imagination of our donor just as it did that of the campus community," Brody says. "We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for giving us a chance to put this part of the plan on such a fast track. Otherwise, it might have taken years to complete."
"This campus will be absolutely transformed over the summer of 2000," says James T. McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration. "But there will be bumps to get over."
McGill notes the need for continued flow of information between faculty, summer event planners and the teams managing the project. "Every effort possible will be made to adapt the construction schedule to accommodate other activities," he says, "but there will be some dislocation."
The construction is expected to run two shifts a day, seven days a week, with several areas of campus under the shovel at any particular time, says Steve Campbell, interim executive director of facilities. But work will be planned to hold disruptions to a bearable level, he says. Utility outages in office or academic buildings, for instance, will be scheduled as often as possible for evenings and weekends. Work near the perimeters of campus, adjoining neighboring communities and occupied residence halls, will cease late at night.
McGill says the administration will announce disruptions--including outages, walkway closures and detours--as early as possible, through The Gazette, a special newsletter, a dedicated website and a listserv, among other vehicles. The website will go live next month. In the meantime, information will be posted on the existing master plan site at http://www.jhu.edu/masterplan.
Efforts are also under way to identify nearby satellite parking lots, Campbell says. These will replace spaces that will be lost not only to the outdoor space project but also to the previously scheduled construction of Biomedical Engineering's Clark Hall, near Garland Hall, and the new student recreation center, adjacent to the Athletic Center. The construction fences surrounding both sites go up in April. Work on those buildings, as well as continued construction of the student arts center, will follow a normal weekday schedule.
The summer 2000 construction blitz will not complete the master plan; in fact, the plan is expected to guide development and building location at Homewood for decades. Planning for parking structures is a high priority, especially with an expected new building for the Space Telescope Science Institute, to be built at some future point on what is now U Lot.
There will be plenty more to do after August even in open space. Some planting will take place in spring 2001, a better time than late August for some species. And more work eventually will be done outside the central core of campus. For instance, a service road is envisioned near the western perimeter, as is work to restore the health of the wooded areas below San Martin Drive and make them accessible for recreation.