DARTMOUTH — UMass Dartmouth unveiled Wednesday a master plan focused on the renovation of buildings and beautification of its 710-acre main campus off Old Westport Road.
“This plan envisions UMass Dartmouth as the Tier 1 national research university that our students, our faculty and this region deserve,” Chancellor Robert E. Johnson said in a news release. “As we offer our students a private college educational experience and public university value, this vision of an evolving UMass Dartmouth will guide us in the development of the only Massachusetts research university south of Boston, a critical component of the innovation ecosystem for the region and far beyond.”
The plan by designLAB architects (Boston), CRJA Landscape Architects (Boston) and Hord, Coplan, Macht (Baltimore) is based on feedback from students, faculty, staff, and external stakeholders while also considering the character of the campus’ Paul Rudolph "Brutalist" architecture, according to the release. The Claire T. Carney Library will serve as a model for future renovations.
State Rep. Chris Markey, whose district includes UMass Dartmouth, said he is optimistic there will be a way to finance the renovations and new construction, adding UMD “is a microcosm of what has happened to the interstate transportation system. They were coming at the same time 52 years ago and now there are maintenance issues.”
Markey said the building projects should start with one new building, a “swing” building, to be used as temporary space for various departments while the work is being done, departments staying a year or two and then returning to their refurbished spaces while the next department moves in for its turn.
The original Rudolph-designed buildings "are simultaneously reaching the end of their useful life and are experiencing serious performance deficiencies," according to the master plan. "This is a product of the age of the buildings, the lower quality construction methods used in the era they were built in, and the minimal investment in proactive upkeep measures. ... Preserving and modernizing these buildings is crucial to sustaining educational quality and research opportunities, as well as preserving the Rudolph legacy."
The highlights of the plan include:
Renovation, replacement, and expansion of academic facilities that are now between 30-50 years old.
Replacement of ﬁrst-year housing that is now 40-plus years old.
Renovated and expanded Campus Center/Student Union.
Improved athletics and recreational facilities.
Improved parking and signage to make the campus more welcoming.
Renovated and re-designed Ring Road that integrates pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile traffic, and an improved main entrance (aligned with Cross Road) and secondary entrance to enhance traffic safety on Old Westport Road.
"While the full cost of the plan has yet to be determined, the university expects to pursue funding from multiple sources," according to a news release. "One source will be the Commonwealth, which has made major investments in UMass satellite facilities over the last 20 years, but has undertaken just one major facility project on the main campus since the 1980s – the Claire T. Carney Library renovation. Most of the buildings constructed on campus over the last 30 years have instead been financed by the university, along with private donations."
The university is also considering a public-private partnership to replace, renovate, and manage all or some of its 4,500-bed student housing stock. Under the concept being developed, a private firm would begin by replacing first-year student housing. The project will require a series of approvals by university and state officials.
UMD has evolved from a commuter school to a residential campus that houses about 50 percent of its full-time undergraduate students as well as a small portion of the graduate and law students, according to the master plan. Student housing was built in the 1970s and 1980s on the east side of campus: Elmwood, Maple Ridge, Roberts, Chestnut and the Cedar Dell apartments "are all in poor condition and are candidates for replacement."
"In the interviews with students, it was felt that if adequate, modern, and new housing were available on campus, students would prefer to live on the Dartmouth campus," according to the master plan.
The plan can be found online at https://www.umassd.edu/masterplan. Presentations about the plan will be scheduled during the next few weeks, according to the university.