This land is our land

The Campus Development Committee, in charge of university land use approval, gave the OK for two projects yesterday, one of which concerns the renovation of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center and Student Union expansion. CDC members also heard timelines and project overviews of new master plans for USF Tampa and USF Lakeland.

The Marshall Center renovation and Student Union expansion, which has been a topic among the administration for several years, is finally moving forward after being postponed for a year. The board gave permission to use the land on which the Special Events Center sits as well as some of the surrounding area for the building of a new Student Union.

“We can, conceivably by next spring, be taking down the SEC, and a year from now be building the new building,” said MC Director Guy Conway.

The other appeal for land came from the Public Art Committee, which has asked to reserve land east of the new Natural and Environmental Sciences building for an art project that will serve as a sitting area for faculty, staff and students. The project will be to create a sidewalk-like surface depicting the Hillsborough River. According to the PAC representative, these flowing blue sidewalks will be lined with trees and benches and will cost less than $500 every three years to maintain. After brief questioning, the proposal to set aside land was accepted.

Although both projects’ request for land was accepted, it does not mean that these projects will be completed or even started. Before either project can break ground, proposals must go through both the Academic and Campus Environment Committee workgroup and the Board of Trustees.

The other two agenda items were preview presentations on master plans for the Tampa and Lakeland campuses. Master plans are detailed mappings of a university’s present and proposed infrastructure.

According to Dr. Bernard Mackey, associate vice president of the Lakeland campus, master plans are required every five years, and USF Tampa is now in the process of updating its 2002 master plan.

Lakeland will be drawing up a master plan for the first time due to a large land grant it recently received.

“We have signed an agreement with the Williams Acquisition Holding Company for the donation of approximately 533 acres of land,” Mackey said. “There are stipulations in that agreement about activities that need to go on in advance of the donation of land, one of which is the completion of the master plan of campus, and the completion of a campus development agreement with the city of Lakeland. The agreement calls for the master plan and the development agreement to be completed within one year of the signing of the document, and it was signed November 22 of 2004.”

Lakeland now shares facilities with Polk Community College and offers limited courses for both undergraduates and graduates. With this new land grant, Lakeland will have an opportunity to redesign itself as a university that must meet the demands of its community.

“The priority for USF Lakeland is to build, at the outset, a four-year undergraduate campus with graduate offerings that will do two things. One, expand to the lower level the amount of offerings we have, and two, expand the amount of degree programs we currently offer that can be completed in Lakeland,” Mackey said.