Historic Master Plan Will Guide Transformation of UB and Increase its Impact on Entire Region

Editor’s note

In 2019, the SUNY Board of Trustees revoked the naming of John and Editha Kapoor Hall as well as John Kapoor's honorary degree. More information is available in the university’s News Center.

Release Date: October 27, 2009 This content is archived.


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"Building UB," the university's comprehensive physical plan, is designed to make the North Campus a warmer, more welcoming and more sustainable environment.

Plans for the Downtown Campus include a new Gateway Complex for UB community programs and will make the campus a world-class center for health care, teaching and research.

Plans for the South Campus include restoring the historic campus to the vision E.B. Green had for it 80 years ago.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An historic comprehensive physical plan that will guide the growth of the University at Buffalo as it implements the UB 2020 strategic plan to become a model 21st century university will be unveiled today at a community celebration on UB's North Campus.

The university's first master plan since creation of UB's North Campus in the 1970s, it articulates a long-range vision to create one university with three seamlessly connected campuses, North, South and Downtown, including a renewed presence in the city's urban core with creation of an Academic Health Center with UB's five professional health schools located on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. (To learn more about the plan, click here.)

UB 2020 calls for UB, already the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York, to grow by increasing enrollment by 10,000 and faculty and staff ranks by more than 6,700.

"Building UB" is of historic size and scope -- a $5 billion investment to create 7 million square feet of space to be constructed over a minimum of 20 years. By growing on its three campuses, UB will significantly increase its economic and cultural impact on the entire region. Over the next two decades, implementation of the plan is projected to generate an additional $20 billion or more in regional economic impact.

The plan is the result of two years' work and the input of thousands of people, including members of the university community and the public. Input and feedback was gathered by UB officials during more than 250 meetings with internal and external stakeholders and at three public forums.

The comprehensive physical plan will be unveiled by UB President John B. Simpson at a celebration to be attended by 500 people in the Center for the Arts on the North Campus.

Simpson said the planned growth of the UB North, South and Downtown campuses will help the university rise among the ranks of the nation's public research universities.

"UB has good campuses. Good facilities, strong infrastructure, natural landscapes, historic buildings and more. The promise of the campus master plan, to which we dedicate ourselves this evening, is to make our good campuses into great ones, and to add an entire new campus of the university in downtown Buffalo. It is to transform campuses that merely serve their purpose into campuses where people want to be, campuses that people love.

"This plan, I believe, does exactly that. And its implementation, which has already begun, will be a very big part of what it will take to achieve our goal, to finally and fully realize the vast potential of UB."

UB Provost Satish K. Tripathi said the comprehensive physical plan will lead to the creation of great new learning spaces, facilities and landscapes that will help UB attract the best faculty and students, and make it competitive with the very best universities in the nation.

"Everything we propose to do on the campus master plan is aimed at supporting UB's core academic mission: the advancement of knowledge," Tripathi said. (To learn more about the importance of the advancement of knowledge, click here.)

Implementation of the plan will require approximately $2.9 billion in special requests for state funds -- known as strategic initiative allocations -- to build core academic facilities, plus $2.1 billion to be funded by UB from revenue streams earned in concert with private partners, philanthropy and other sources. The money required is to be invested carefully over time following the principles of the plan, UB officials emphasize.

UB is seeking state legislative reform to allow it to act more independently and more efficiently. Such reform would give UB the financial flexibility to fulfill the potential of UB 2020 and the comprehensive physical plan.

"Contrary to the thinking in some quarters, dollars for UB's comprehensive physical plan and UB 2020 is not spending, it's an investment," said James A. ("Beau") Willis, executive vice president for university support services. "According to calculations from UB's Regional Institute, each one-time investment of $250 million by UB and its partners -- one year's worth of projects -- will return a recurring $100 million in economic activity to the region every year as UB grows and becomes a much bigger institution."

Elements of the plan -- including several projects totaling more than $400 million in funding encumbered from previous state budget cycles -- already are underway. These projects include a Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) and a UB Biosciences Incubator on the Downtown Campus, a South Ellicott student housing project and new engineering building on the North Campus, and a new building -- Kapoor Hall -- for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the South Campus.

UB Professor Robert G. Shibley, senior adviser to the president for campus planning and design, who has been overseeing development of the plan, explained that the plan is fundamentally an academic one, with the physical changes derived from UB 2020's goals of academic excellence and regional revitalization.

"It's a physical manifestation of an academic planning process," said Shibley, director of the Urban Design Project in the UB School of Architecture and Planning. "It avoids building for the sake of building, or growth for the sake of growth. In its entirety, it is specifically targeted to where UB wants to be in the 21st century, how we want to contribute to this region and, intellectually and academically, how we see ourselves rising in the ranks of first-tier research universities."

The plan is detailed in a 248-page book, "Building UB: The Comprehensive Physical Plan" (University at Buffalo, 2009) and in a 32-page booklet, "Building UB: Toward a Greater University," which offers a summary.

UB's new comprehensive physical plan was developed by the university working with a team of consultants led by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners.

Frederick A. Bland, managing partner for Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, said the plan demonstrates the value of the underlying assets on each of three campuses, as well as the potential for making vast improvements in the quality of places at UB.

"People haven't been that fond of UB's campuses," Bland said, "but with the right moves they can be fantastic. The South Campus will shed its clutter so that its historic character shines through. The North Campus lacks soul now, but the plan will create fabulous social spaces on the Academic Spine, Lake LaSalle and a new 'Main Street' leading to the Ellicott Complex. And the potential for a great urban campus downtown is truly exciting."

The plan calls for one great university with three distinctive campus environments that are tailored to their respective suburban, urban and downtown settings; better connected with each other; and better integrated with their surrounding neighborhoods. Spaces on all three campuses will promote interdisciplinary collaboration and create fertile environments for teaching, research and service. (To learn more about plans for UB's three campuses, click here.)

UB's suburban North Campus will be warmer, more welcoming and more sustainable, and home to programs in the arts and sciences, engineering and management, as well as UB's main libraries. New buildings will include four natural sciences buildings, three engineering buildings (one already under construction), a humanities center and an additional building for the School of Management. Also outlined are plans for new research and arts lofts. A recreational and wellness center, hotel and conference center, and a university club for alumni, faculty and staff will be situated on an oval near Lake LaSalle.

UB's historic South Campus is pictured as "restored to the vision E.B. Green had for it 80 years ago" and as a center for inter-professional education, bringing together professional programs in law, education, social work, and architecture and planning. A new Law School building, two additions to Hayes Hall to expand facilities of the School of Architecture and Planning and a new professional education center are in the plan, as are expanded facilities for the Graduate School of Education in renovated space now housing UB's medical school, and the School of Social Work in a renovation of Parker Hall.

The Downtown Campus will be a world-class center of clinical practice, medical education, health sciences research and the translation of new knowledge into practical applications. It will be home to UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and School of Public Health and Health Professions. It also will include a health-sciences library, child care and wellness facilities, a recreation facility, conference center and student housing.

The plan proposes broadened transportation options between and on UB's campuses, and smoother and more convenient connections between them. More walkable and bike-friendly, UB's campuses will include parking garages "to ease the impact of parking on the land and on the eye." The summary of the plan notes: "Changing energy economics, the threat of global climate change and the impact of cars upon our campus landscapes all demand we develop new alternatives." The plan also supports expansion of the NFTA Metro Rail from the South Campus to the North Campus.

"Meeting the goals of UB 2020 will require not only that our campuses function better, but that they look and feel better, too -- as places for learning, working and living," the plan states. It calls for enhancing the character of each campus, creating "great public places" that will encourage the public to gather, and to revitalize campus landscapes. Addressing the latter, the plan calls for new trees, rain gardens, meadows replacing lawns and green roofs.

Environmental stewardship is a key theme, well. The plan notes: "Our campuses contain some of the largest open spaces in the region. Naturalizing these spaces will expand and connect self-sustaining habitats for local flora and fauna -- while reducing lawn areas that require high-energy maintenance, filtering and absorbing stormwater, capturing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and providing a wider variety of recreational opportunities for university and community members alike." (To learn more about how UB plans to achieve its goals, click here.)

Shibley emphasized that the comprehensive physical plan is a living document that can and must be adapted "to meet evolving priorities, to grasp unforeseen opportunities and respond to ever-changing economic conditions. It provides a compelling vision and a definitive step-by-step process for fulfilling that vision. But it also lays out a framework for adjusting the plan to a wide range of unforeseen circumstances according to clear and convincing principles." The plan, he added, will be reviewed annually and updated at least every five years.

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