UB Launches Master Planning Effort to Grow and Transform Campus Environment

Release Date: July 9, 2007 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The effort to grow the University at Buffalo and dramatically transform its three campuses has taken a major step forward with the awarding of a master planning contract to a team of internationally renowned architectural, planning, landscape and design firms.

Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners of New York City, Washington D.C. and Beijing will lead development of a $4.5 million comprehensive physical plan for UB that will set a new course for UB's campus development over the next 15 years, working in collaboration with UB's "Building UB" team and architects Foit-Albert Associates of Buffalo.

Subcontractors will include award-winning landscape architects Andropogon Associates of Philadelphia, academic-space programmers DEGW of Chicago and facilities-condition specialists VFA of Boston. The contract is funded by UB's capital budget, which is managed through The State University of New York Construction Fund.

Awarding of the contract is a significant milestone in the advancement the university's strategic plan, UB 2020, focused on transforming UB into a model 21st-century public university. Since its creation in 2004, UB 2020 has involved the efforts of thousands of people across the university and in the community working toward increasing the size of the university, achieving enduring academic excellence, forging a coherent university-wide vision and transforming the physical presence of UB.

Implementation of the comprehensive physical plan will significantly enhance UB's campus environment, facilities and infrastructure, said University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson.

"Development of a comprehensive physical plan is a major step toward an exciting new chapter in UB's history, and we are excited to be working with partners who have such extensive experience in campus planning to advance this major initiative," Simpson said.

"For UB to attract the best faculty and student talent, we must offer the highest-quality campus environment," he added.

The comprehensive physical plan will lead to the most comprehensive integrated development of UB since the master plan that led to the construction of UB's North Campus in Amherst. It will focus on construction, renovation, expansion and environmental sustainability of facilities, public spaces, landscaping and modes of transportation on UB's North Campus, South Campus and the emerging downtown campus.

The plan will support the university's goal to grow UB by 40 percent -- expanding from 25,000 to 35,000 students and adding 750 new faculty and 600 new staff -- by 2020, thereby dramatically increasing the university's positive impact on the local and statewide economy and quality of life.

Simpson acknowledged the work of UB Provost Satish Tripathi, James A. (Beau) Willis, executive vice president for university support services, and many other UB faculty, staff and community members whose efforts are contributing to the success of UB 2020.

"Together we will create a campus environment that complements our vision for UB's growth and place-of-prominence in the world; a place where students can study and gather in memorable, attractive campus settings, where researchers working in state-of-the-art facilities can more easily collaborate across academic boundaries and where UB can engage the community in ways that greatly enhance our region's quality of life."

The physical-planning process will begin immediately with an assessment of the condition of all UB facilities, and an examination of the draft vision statement and guiding principles for planning. This will lead to creation of campus-design concepts, according to "Building UB" project leader Robert G. Shibley, senior advisor to the president for campus planning and design and professor of architecture and planning.

Beyer Blinder Belle has extensive experience in higher-education master planning and architectural design, having worked on campus projects at Harvard Business School, Princeton University, Indiana University, Stony Brook University and many others, Shibley noted.

"In essence we're undertaking an historic 're-imagining' of UB," Shibley said. "We've assembled a stellar team of planners, architects and designers to help us achieve President Simpson's ambitious vision for the university."

A major emphasis of the plan, Shibley added, will be creation of innovative "learning landscapes" that seamlessly connect academic buildings and classrooms to new campus meeting places, student residences and services and landscaped grounds -- creating a lively, village-like atmosphere on UB's campuses.

The planning will focus on the physical configuration of each of the three campuses. The goal will be to create three distinctive campus environments -- three different ways to experience UB -- tailored to the respective suburban and urban settings of each campus. The plan will focus on ways to better connect the campuses with one another and better integrate them with surrounding neighborhoods.

"Given UB's targeted population growth, and the addition of new facilities and campus environments that will follow from our physical planning, one can imagine that all three campuses will become much more dynamic and lively than they have been in the past," Shibley said, "which will make them attractive to more than just students.

"As members of the community begin to perceive UB as a place for all kinds of cultural activity, they'll come more often for events or concerts, and they'll come just to come; they'll want to be part of the vibrant cultural and academic life of the university."

Examples of lively university streetscapes can be found on the campuses of other major universities, such as the University of Washington in Seattle, where students and community members gather daily in public campus spaces to study, participate in activities or just hang out, Shibley said.

Community members and the leadership of UB's host municipalities -- Amherst, Buffalo and Erie County -- will contribute to the physical-planning process. Other collaborators will include the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Representatives of these organizations already have assisted UB in framing the scope of consultant services and in the selection of firms chosen to work on the comprehensive plan.

Leading up to the physical-planning process, Simpson and Shibley already have met with hundreds of community, business and government leaders, UB alumni and members of the public to discuss the need to grow UB and transform its campuses.

A draft of the comprehensive physical plan is scheduled to be reviewed by June 2008.

The plan will be guided by five principles: pursuit of academic excellence; seamless connection of facilities and campuses via technologies, pedestrian walkways and transportation; alignment and engagement with UB's host municipalities; disciplined financial and managerial stewardship; and environmental stewardship -- a commitment to reducing UB's carbon emissions.

Several strategic interim construction projects will proceed as scheduled as the comprehensive physical plan is being developed, Shibley said. These projects will begin the physical transformation of the UB campuses, in keeping with the goals and principles of the master planning process.

Projects now underway and soon to start include construction of new student residences, conversion of Allen Hall into a "gateway" public meeting place on the UB South Campus, restoration and landscaping of Founders Plaza at the heart of UB's North Campus and renovation of Acheson Hall to create a new home for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and an improved entrance to UB's South Campus bordering the Parkridge Avenue neighborhood.

The comprehensive physical plan is expected to be completed in March 2009.

For more information about "Building UB" and the comprehensive physical plan, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/ub2020/plan/.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

John Della Contrada
Vice President for University Communications
521 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Tel: 716-645-4094 (mobile: 716-361-3006)
Twitter: @UBNewsSource