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ESU's campus draft plan may not have many tweaks before Board of Regents sees it

Emporia State University now has a draft of campus master plan improvements in hand, and if it passes the Kansas Board of Regents next month there could well be some significant changes ahead.

Consultant Dennis Strait led a nearly two-hour presentation and question-and-answer session at the Memorial Union on Monday. He says several specific aspects of campus life need adjustments immediately, whether it be rearranging Highland at Merchant to provide a new entrance to campus, eliminating the north half of Morse Hall, repurposing the Stormont Facilities Building as student housing or a massive renovation to King Hall. 

Strait says the priority list that has developed will help the campus grow in accordance with several master plan goals, including refreshing learning spaces, creating a model residential campus and furthering the economic engine Emporia State has become. He says this is an all-encompassing plan.

Several significant on-campus adjustments were unveiled last fall, with three main groups developed -- each one according to the main entrances at 12th and Commercial, 15th and Merchant and Highland and Merchant. The focus Monday was the priority list, which has been broken down into immediate needs, near-term goals, long-term planning and ongoing items. However, Strait says the entrances are still a big part of the plan going forward.

The draft as presented has work on the new north entrance, possibly including a visitor center doubling as a new home for the National Teachers Hall of Fame, and work removing some of the trees at Kellogg Circle as the top priorities where entryways are concerned. Changes to 15th hinge now on possibly removing the Butcher Education Facility and folding those operations into another space on campus, although where hasn't been determined. This puts less emphasis on removing Cremer Hall as had been discussed earlier.

ESU Vice President for Fiscal Affairs Ray Hauke says the lists makes sense.

Proposed improvements to the university's appearance along Interstate 35 were not specified but could improve the use of native grasses as a tie to the Flint Hills.

The plan will be presented to the Board of Regents next month. Strait says the current plan should go before the Regents almost as is in May unless there is a lot of discussion in the next few weeks.

Cost estimates were not released and will be developed later. Strait says that was done deliberately to set a priority list that makes sense. Hauke says state resources are tight, so university leaders will be looking at private funds and possibly student fees as potential revenue sources.

The priority list by category:

Immediate

King Hall renovations, addition of art annex
Stormont Facilities Building transformation into student housing
New natatorium
North entrance (Merchant at Highland) adjustments
North Morse Hall demolition

Near-term

Science Hall renovations
South Morse Hall demolition
Merchant Street appearance improvements including tree-lined parking from 12th to 15h
Interstate 35 frontage improvements
Downtown housing

Long-term

Academic building renovations
Athletic practice facility
Wilson Park housing
Central entry (15th and Merchant) improvements

Ongoing

Classroom renovations
Campus grounds improvements

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