Big changes to ASU presented in Preliminary Master Plan

Blue indicates parking lots to be removed. Purple, proposed parking
Blue indicates parking lots to be removed. Purple, proposed parking

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Big changes are coming to Arkansas State University over the next couple of decades. Though ASU has seen its fair share of changes since just last semester, including the new Marion Berry Overpass and the closure of Caraway Road through campus, more are on the way. Those changes were discussed at Wednesday night's community meeting at the Jonesboro Public Library.

The meeting was the final of four meetings held throughout the day to discuss with community members the plan for ASU's campus. ASU Facilities Manager, Bill Hall, said the meetings gave people the opportunity to bring up any concerns they may have had.

"One last chance for the community to have input in our campus planning process," Hall said.

In January of 2012, planning firm SmithGroup JJR out of Ann Arbor Michigan came to Jonesboro. During their visit, planning members presented three possible alternatives for ASU's campus. After taking in a lot of feedback from students, faculty and community members, they combined what people liked most from each plan into their first draft.

Jon Hoffmann with SmithGroup JJR said out of the three plans they made available, they received the most positive feedback from the plan that would implement the most changes.

"So it's not going to be one project one project that solves everything but hundreds of projects over many years," Hoffmann said.

One main goal they hope to reach is to make the campus a more walking and biking friendly environment. Hoffmann said they hope that not only will the campus change, but so will the mentality of walking on campus.

"You'll drive to campus, but once you get there, you'll get out of your car. Leave it for the day, and walk to where you need to go," Hoffmann said.

Another major plan discussed involved parking. Though they will bring in more parking to ASU, it will be located on the outskirts of the college. Hoffmann said they recommend the parking lots in the center of campus be removed, further encouraging the pedestrian friendly environment.

Currently, ASU has a student to parking spot ratio of 1.76 to 1 (this ratio does not include parking spots that are recreational or parking spots not within a 10 minute walk of the Student Union.) Planners with SmithGroup JJR forecast that within the next 20 years and after all of the parking changes have been put into place, the student to parking spot ratio will be 1.91 to 1. Hoffmann said the national average ratio is 2.8 to 1.

Hall said they realize that things will naturally change over the next twenty years, which is why they've put the master plan into place.

"It's a document that will help guide us in this process," Hall said. "As we have new construction projects, it will inform us about where we might want to place those buildings, what those buildings might look like."

Some of those buildings include a business building, freshman dorm, dining hall and more. But, the plan is subject to change and Hall stressed this plan is set to take place gradually over the next twenty years.

"So we won't see drastic changes overnight," Hall said. "But it's a living document, it's a document that we will certainly fine tune over time."

Hall said that they won't stop taking input from the community now that the meetings are over. He said if you're interested in giving your feedback about the plan, you can visit http://www.astate.edu/masterplan to view the proposals. You can also email Hall at whall@astate.edu where he will pass along your input to the planning team.

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