An update of the UTC master plan was given to the Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga at their meeting Tuesday afternoon. Guest speaker, Senior Financial Officer and Vice Chancellor for planning Richard Brown described a plan that originated with ex-chancellor Bill Stacy in early 2000 and continues today.
The plan has been implemented in three phases, with the ultimate goal of accommodating a projected 18,000 students. The current enrollment is 11,800 which is expected to increase to 12,000 next year.
The University is now drawing students from 95 counties in Tennessee and is currently a 35 percent residential school versus having a commuter population. The Master Plan for the school was created to define “where it’s going and where it’s been” and to establish goals and objectives for the future.
The master plan has been done in three phases since its beginning, to the present. An investment of $318 million in capital improvements has been made since 2000. To put that in perspective, Dr. Brown said that is three times the amount that has been spent on Chattanooga’s Riverfront development.
Parking continues to be a major concern. The university is addressing it and at the same time trying to keep a balance with green spaces. Dr. Brown said that now, there is plenty of parking, but not necessarily “at the front door”. For example, there are over 2,000 parking spaces at the Engel Stadium site as well as other locations where people can park and ride a free Carta shuttle which arrives every five minutes to the central campus. It is also participating in the city’s bike program. Some open, green areas have already been established by planting 1,000 legacy trees and labeling them. The campus is now classified as an arboretum.
Projects recently completed are a new Aquatic Center, which the vice chancellor referred to as “a playground” where students go for recreation. It is a $28 million project which has a pool, a “lazy river”, a state-of-the-art gym, and a climbing wall. Also, a new urban residential center that has crossed the previous boundary of McCallie Avenue now provides the area with animation 24 hours a day. He credited previous Mayor Bob Corker for making the area accessible by changing McCallie Avenue to a two-way street.
Aesthetic qualities are also currently being implemented such as boundary markers at all entrances to the campus and art pieces being installed in each quadrant. A streetscape project will end in the center of the campus at a fountain.
There are also ongoing projects including a new $50 million library which is about a year from opening. This building will be LEED certified. Another building is being renovated for the art department and it, too, will be LEED.
Dr. Brown said that because Chamberlain Field was replaced by Finley Stadium on the Southside, the old stands were torn down. Architectural elements were saved in the razing and will be used to build a replica of the old stadium which will become the entrance to a new park, complete with a Starbucks.
When a new land use and growth plan is put in place, housing will be the first priority. The school had to reject 400 new students this year because housing was not available. There also is a need for new academic buildings. In the next 10 years it is expected that $380 million in capital improvements will be made. Multi-level parking will have to be phased into the plan slowly because of the high cost to build these structures which currently is $22,000 per parking space. Additional green, open spaces will also figure into the overall development. The hope is to have Vine Street become a new residential corridor which will end at Georgia Avenue and Fountain Square. A greenway leading from the river through Chattanooga ending at Findley Stadium is also on the wish list.
UTC is described as a compact campus, now consisting of 130 acres in the center of the Chattanooga, and is landlocked. Because of that, when any surrounding land becomes available, the school takes advantage of every chance to acquire it, Dr. Brown said. However, he emphasized that he would never take property by eminent domain. One acquisition was the addition of Engel Stadium to the campus which came along with 28 adjoining acres of land. The existing stadium will be kept, but there is now space to add a track and field facility, a tennis pavilion with stands and intramural fields. The school has recently bought the Red Cross building on McCallie Avenue and is now leasing it back to Red Cross to give them time to transition to a new location.
UTC is “the jewel in the crown of the university system” in Tennessee, said Dr. Brown. It is the fastest growing unit of the university system and a master plan is necessary to guide the growth. He told the Kiwanis Club members that it is a vibrant, engaged university belonging to the city it serves. He added “we believe that great cities deserve great universities.”