TU looks to add 3,000 beds, bike beltway

By: Sam Shelton, News Editor

Towson’s campus could look a lot different in the coming years, according to the recently-updated University master plan, which projects that central campus enrollment could increase by nearly 5,000 students by 2029.

To combat this, the University plans to increase on-campus housing capacity by roughly 3,000 beds, according to the Campus Master Plan Executive Summary.

About a third of those beds will come from a potential housing and mixed-use development in the south of campus, across Osler Drive. Carroll and Marshall halls, referred to in the master plan as West Village housing phases three and four, will open in Fall 2016 and contribute an additional 700 beds. Once the Enrollment Services building is replaced by a new facility between Burdick Hall and the Towsontown Garage, another phase of West Village housing will add 600 more beds.

“This new housing will add enough capacity to the campus to facilitate the phased renovations of the Residence Tower and the Glen Towers over the next ten years,” according to the plan.

The Residence Tower renovation will account for another 450 new beds.

According to Director of Planning Kris Phillips, the master plan’s top three academic priorities are construction of the new science building, a College of Health Professions building and the renovation of the aging Smith Hall.

According to a Cook Library chronology, Smith Hall opened in 1965. The College of Health Professions lacks a centralized location. Its facilities are currently scattered between six different buildings.

“We are working to have all three of these projects completed with the next ten years,” Phillips said in an email.

According to the master plan, the new science building will be located south of Stephens Hall and adjacent to 7800 York Rd. The introduction of the new 316,000 gross square foot facility will allow the later “adaptive renovation of Smith Hall for Visual and Communication Arts,” per the master plan summary.

The health professions building will “provide 250,000 gross square feet of new classroom and lab space,” but the plan says that program spaces in Burdick Hall and the Towson Center will also be maintained.

Another aspect of the master plan aims to improve campus’ walkability through the implementation of pedestrian and bicycle paths. The executive summary mentions a “bike beltway,” a 10-foot-wide pathway built along Towsontown Boulevard, York Road, Cross Campus Drive and Osler Drive for pedestrian and cyclist-use.

“The path will be constructed to connect to Baltimore County’s bicycling pathway network and be an amenity for on and off campus communities,” Phillips said.

According to the plan, priority will also be placed on connecting the inside of campus “hill-top to hill-top” to mitigate “current topographical challenges through pedestrian bridges and landscape treatments.”

“Constructing pedestrian walkways from hilltop to hilltop will provide quicker and better pedestrian connections and improve ADA accessibility,” Phillips said. “This will help to improve the walkability of campus and make it easier student to go from class to class.”

The executive summary also proposes pathways and a pedestrian bridge over Osler Drive to connect campus’ Lots 12 and 14 and therefore, central and southern campus.

The plan will add 1,700 parking spaces to campus, Phillips said. And the proposed bridge would make existing parking in the southern portion of campus more accessible.

“Currently we have a surplus of about 400 parking spaces every day in the stadium region,” he said. “The problem is that many of those spaces seem remote and need to be better connected to campus.”

Phillips said that Parking and Transportation Services incentive programs like off-campus shuttle services, Zipcar usage and MTA subsidies help to reduce the number of cars and traffic on campus.

Other projects outlined in the updated master plan summary include renovations of Newell and Glen dining halls as well as other academic buildings, an expansion of the University Union and an assessment of campus sustainability. Work on the $34 million Burdick Hall renovation and expansion is currently underway.

The master plan is updated every five years and all projects are subject to funding approval from the Board of Regents and the state, according to a Dec. 2 university press release.

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