The Beyond Boundaries 2047 Campus Master Plan (Master Plan, Plan) aligns the university’s physical environment with its strategic initiatives, mission, and purpose as an institution. Specifically, Virginia Tech intends this master plan as an extension of the Beyond Boundaries philosophy and vision. The Plan identifies projects that build the principles of interdisciplinary collaboration, personal development, and betterment of the human condition into the physical campus environment. To ensure the achievement of these strategic ends, the master planning process also seeks to ensure the adequacy of campus infrastructure and services (e.g., classroom space, housing, dining, and transportation) for current and future needs, particularly in light of projected enrollment growth.
While the values and principles driving the Plan are fixed, the individual projects identified to advance them are not. Flexibility is fundamental to the master planning process. Master Plans are not construction blueprints. While the values which guide the plan are inherent in the mission and purpose of Virginia Tech as an institution, specific projects will change to reflect changing economic conditions, public policy, and technological advances. As this document plans for development over a 30 year period, decisions regarding the execution of individual projects will take place over that same timeframe.
The Master Plan reallocates some parking from the campus core to the western portion of campus. Hitt Hall, the Undergraduate Science Laboratory, and the Multi-Modal Transit Facility will be constructed in the Derring Lot, Perry Street Lot, and Prices Fork Lot area. However, over the long-term, the university will add approximately 3,600 parking spaces in two parking decks on the western edge of campus. Virginia Tech does not intend for this reallocation to extend commuting times. Enhanced bus, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure embraces a multi-modal philosophy that emphasizes density and easy walkability. Placement of academic facilities at the campus edge, while maintaining parking at its core, would increase commutes between classes. Concentrating academic activity thus minimizes overall travel time during the day, particularly for students. Additionally, specialty parking will still be offered throughout the physical campus. That is, all development will ensure the presence of accessible, service, and visitor parking.
Increasing physical access to campus spaces for persons with different levels of bodily ability is a core concern of the master planning process. Promoting universal access is one of the eight principles underlying the Plan. As a specific scope item within the Plan, Virginia Tech commissioned an accessibility study for the campus core. This study, which examined exterior site components, identified a number of physical barriers as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The institution is in the process of resolving the identified barriers.
The Plan does not stop at meeting ADA requirements. It seeks to exceed that threshold to promote universal campus access for persons with every level of bodily ability. The Plan articulates this philosophy with one key project—the Infinite Loop. This loop is a universally accessible pathway connecting the main districts of the core campus. It is universally accessible because it does not exceed a gradient increase of five percent. This pathway will be the preferred route for all pedestrians, cyclists, and in some cases even autonomous vehicles. Radiating from this loop are additional accessible pathways called “green links”. The Plan identified the main pedestrian corridors around campus, and it seeks to adjust all grades to achieve the less than 5 percent increase necessary for universal access. Finally, the Plan also recommends changes to the entryways of certain residence halls to allow persons with differing levels of bodily abilities to enter and congregate in the same spaces.
Architectural renderings and other images shown in the Plan indicate concepts for types of spaces, not specific designs. Designs will be conducted for each building independently. Virginia Tech is committed to the maintenance of its Collegiate Gothic aesthetic, as well as the continued use of Hokie Stone. This commitment also allows the institution to experiment with different interpretations of this architectural language on certain areas of campus. For example, many images in the Plan show the use of glass façades. While these images do not represent Virginia Tech’s intention to design a building with a glass façade, future projects may explore the opportunity to include design features novel to the campus. It is important to note the Board of Visitors will have their typical design oversight over each project.
Virginia Tech seeks to provide students, faculty, and staff with areas to work, rest, and collaborate outside of traditional classroom and office activities. These areas are common spaces. Within these spaces, the institution also seeks to provide opportunities for “creative collisions”. Creative collisions are experiences in which students, faculty, and staff from different disciplines interact with individuals they would not typically meet during their daily routines. This type of interaction has the potential to result in research generation, diversity-enhancement, and workplace efficiency.
The recommendation to change the use of Cowgill Hall flows from two key drivers. First, population studies conducted during the planning process show the North Academic District (of which Cowgill Hall sits at the heart) as the most active during a typical class day. As such, to meet peak demand, this area requires more significant common space than is currently supplied. It also provides the most opportunity to spark creative interactions that help create VT-shaped students, generate knowledge, and advance the university’s mission. At the same time, the Plan identified opportunities to relocate the College of Architecture and Urban Studies to the Creativity and Innovation district. This location, with more beneficial adjacencies to other creative programs, is better suited to advancing its teaching and research efforts.
The Plan provides for multiple flexible event spaces on campus. While Squires Student Center is expected to be removed, buildings such as Cowgill Hall and the University Bookstore will be repurposed for use as common space with medium to small event spaces. New spaces such as the Public Private Partnership building and an addition to the Inn at Virginia Tech will provide additional ballroom-type spaces serving the same purpose as existing ballrooms at Squires Student Center. However, this concept continues to evolve based on ongoing conversations.
Virginia Tech cares deeply about enhancing the student experience for its graduate population. As such, the Master Plan proposes a three-tiered approach to facilities specific to meeting the needs of its graduate students:
- Creation of a Graduate Village adjacent to campus. This Graduate Village will be part of a multi-use development and will include affordable family housing, affordable childcare, seminar space, and other opportunities for social gathering by graduate students;
- A new Graduate Life Center building, to be located within and/or adjacent to the Health Science and Research District of campus. This new GLC facility will include administrative space, single occupant housing, seminar space, and indoor/outdoor social gathering spaces;
- A Graduate Life Center satellite hub to be located within the Cowgill/Burchard Commons in the North Academic Precinct.