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Campus Master Plan Narrows Possible Site Options for a New Center for the Arts

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Preliminary view of how using Hamilton Smith for a new creative arts center would look on the site in phase 1.

The campus master plan update begun in the fall continues with ideas developing around a new Center for the Arts, locations for graduate and family housing, and land use options for future public-private partnerships.

According to Doug Bencks, director of Campus Planning, while these are the focus so far, this effort is broadly updating the 2004 Campus Master Plan to respond to the challenges of higher education in the 21st century.

Four possible sites have been selected from a field of 12 for the first phase of a new Center for the Arts, which would be paid for primarily through fundraising efforts, the pursuit of state and federal grants, and the university’s capital funds.

Phase 1 of the project would feature advanced digital technology, a unique arts residency program for students and artists-in-residence, a central home for multi-disciplinary programs and endowed projects, innovatively designed collaborative learning spaces, a 350-seat performance/hall, a 175-seat “white box” theater, and sound and visualization suites to accommodate rehearsals and simulation. Eventually with expansion, all elements of the fine and performing arts as well as the Museum of Art would be housed in the new arts center.

Construction would be done in phases, with the first phase having an estimated 45,000 usable square feet and future phases increasing the building to a total of 152,000 usable square feet, depending on funding. There is the possibility of a substantial lapse of time between phases.

Sites currently under consideration for the arts center include Hamilton Smith Hall, B Lot, C Lot, and the Lower Quad. Factors  being considered in evaluating the sites are visibility, ease of access, parking proximity, relationship to downtown, proximity to Paul Creative Arts Center (PCAC), and proximity to other campus event venues. Any of the four locations will impact existing land uses and each site has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

The Hamilton Smith site would mean relocating the English and philosophy departments, most likely to a renovated McConnell Hall. Hamilton Smith has excellent visibility and access as well as the benefit of repurposing one of the university’s flagship buildings rather than adding new space to campus.

Working against the location is the lack of directly adjacent parking, challenging connections to the PCAC, and added construction cost because of many site constraints. What’s more, the entire project wouldn’t fit on the site but it works well for Phase 1.

Building the arts center on the Lower Quad would require the removal of up to three residence halls although it is possible that Phase 1 could be built by displacing only one dorm. The Lower Quad offers excellent parking and is conveniently located near the PCAC, downtown, and other campus event venues. However, displacing up to 345 beds is a serious consideration as is the site’s limited visibility and its distance from academic areas of campus.

C Lot offers excellent parking and access, is close to downtown and other campus event venues, has good visibility and can accommodate the full arts program. But it would eliminate 125 visitor parking spaces, is very close to residence halls, and is removed from academic areas of campus. It is also the site that is least proximate to PCAC. Using C Lot for the arts center also would mean losing a residence hall to make way for the 152,000-square-foot building. It’s possible Phase 1 could be constructed at the Mill Road end of C Lot or it could be placed at the Quad Way end of C Lot.

An option blending C Lot and the Lower Quad will be studied; this could limit the displacement of student housing and parking.

B Lot is the final site option being considered and it also offers excellent parking (about 400 directly adjacent spaces), can accommodate the full program and is close to PCAC.  It would displace about 150 faculty/staff parking spaces and would require extending Quad Way to McDaniel Drive. The location also lacks visibility and is the furthest from downtown.

The campus master plan update process continues through the end of the semester with an open forum to be held in mid-April. The revised campus master plan is due to be presented to President Huddleston this summer. For more information, and for details on possible locations for new graduate school housing and potential sites for public-private partnerships, visit http://www.unh.edu/cmp/.