Lehigh University
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Architectural firm shares planning concepts with university community

The New York-based architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) updated faculty and staff today on the progress of the new campus planning effort, which was announced in April.

Representatives from the firm presented a series of concept options that will help the university grow and transform over the next 10 years. About 100 people attended the session in University Center over the lunch hour.

The concepts included five “catalytic initiatives” that tie in to the university’s strategic plan and provide opportunities to increase partnerships with the South Side of Bethlehem. BBB also presented ideas for improving transportation connections within the Asa Packer Campus; among the Packer, Mountaintop and Goodman campuses; and between the university and the South Side.

The Cross-Disciplinary Academic Catalytic Initiative could transform Chandler-Ullman hall into a flexible teaching and research space that will foster collaboration among faculty, students and staff in the center of campus.

Through the Campus Crossroads Catalytic Initiative, the University Center could be reimagined to become a “mixing bowl” that serves the needs of students but also brings other constituents together.

The proposed Living and Learning Environment Catalytic Initiative would replace the Brodhead Parking lot with new student housing that encourages interaction and learning opportunities outside the classroom, and also eliminates one of the physical barriers between Lehigh and the surrounding neighborhood.

The New Horizons Catalytic Initiative would transform the Mountaintop Campus into “the ultimate flexible space” to encourage creativity and innovation.

Finally, the Campus and Community Catalytic Initiative could serve to repurpose the Service Building on the corner of Fourth and Adams streets (the old ice house) into a destination for academic activity and encourages interaction with the community.

BBB also worked with an economic development and real estate consulting firm to study options for increasing partnerships in the South Side. Their proposals include encouraging rehabilitation of rental properties predominantly occupied by students, developing a dense mixed-use housing project and participating in a neighborhood improvement district.

In the “Connections” portion of their presentation, representatives from BBB suggested ways to continue to improve the walkability of the Packer Campus and to replace unsightly surface parking with parking structures. They also proposed expanding shuttle service over South Mountain and into South Bethlehem.

Over the next few months, BBB will explore the specifics and feasibility of these concepts and develop a final campus plan that incorporates feedback from the campus community. They will present this plan to the Board of Trustees in March 2012.

Story by Emily Groff

Posted on Thursday, November 03, 2011

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