University developing new Master Plan

University of Puget Sound 2023 Master Plan Overview from University Website

By Kaya Heimowitz and Sonja Black

When Puget Sound students hear someone mention the University’s “Master Plan,” the first response is usually, “what even is the master plan?” A campus master plan is a five, ten, or 20-year plan for the future of physical spaces and buildings on a campus, and the University of Puget Sound’s is no different.

Currently, a local architecture firm, NAC, is beginning to construct a new master plan for the University. They are collecting data from students, staff and faculty about what is working and what’s not in terms of physical campus spaces, and what would be important builds to implement in the coming years. We attended a pop-up session held in Wheelock Lobby on March 22 and interviewed several NAC architects on the status of the new master plan

Melia Blankenship, an architect working on the master plan, recognizes the difficulties facing the University. “The University has some issues, you know, that are affecting enrollment, which has affected revenue, so we’re taking a good, hard look at the next two to five years but keeping things in mind up to twenty,” Blankenship said.

The architects are looking at empty and underutilized spaces on campus and collecting data on what people want them to become. They have met with over 50 student groups, a group of faculty and student representatives, and members of the President’s cabinet. The goal is to have a draft of the new master plan to present to the Board of Trustees in October.

One of the largest topics of conversation among students and faculty is the lack of accessibility on campus. Blankenship recognizes the importance of accessibility, saying, s. “I would say that’s one of the top five themes that we’ve been hearing out of all of our focus groups.” Blankenship also mentioned a few other priorities for the school. A student diversity center, student collaboration spaces, and student lounges beyond those inside residence halls are priorities, as well as, repurposing parking lots and Warner gym. The new master plan could also look at things like Wi-Fi connection across campus.

An idea popular with the President, faculty, and staff is the concept of “a two- or three-thousand-person Event Center, a place where all of campus could gather. And then the other benefit to that is it could be rented out for conferences and that type of thing. So, it could be a potential revenue source for the University, which is something they’re interested in,” Blankenship said. The event center could become an option for future indoor graduation ceremonies. One of the potential locations for this event center is the parking lot next to Wyatt and the Warner gym. If a current parking lot is chosen to be repurposed, the new building would most likely create underground parking.

The architects hope that by talking to as many members of the campus as possible, the master plan will reflect the needs of the entire campus community. Students, faculty and staff could expect changes to occur within the next two to five years.