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Ideas for North Campus: Theater, retail, more residence halls, parking structures and a pub

North Campus has some nice features, including its vast green spaces, the music school pond and interesting sculptures, says Douglas Kelbaugh. But when describing the campus as a whole, he uses words like “empty” and “lifeless,” at least when the area is compared to Central Campus.

“There’s a lot of work left to be done on the North Campus if we want to put it on equal footing with the Central Campus, or even close,” the dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning said Oct. 7 while presenting conceptual plans for the redevelopment of the campus.

Kelbaugh, working with a group of about a dozen students, came up with two plans using input from North Campus deans and other stakeholders. He was quick to point out that the plans are not definitive, but that they offer a set of illustrative ideas for expanding and redesigning the campus.
One conceptual idea for redevelopment of North Campus. (Provided by the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning)

The two similar proposals include the Arthur Miller Theater on a site across the street from Pierpont Commons, new residence halls, parking structures to reduce the need for surface lots, a Music School extension, an art and architecture annex, and possibly the building of a convention center.

One concept is in more traditional and formal architectural style, while the other is more informal and modern, Kelbaugh said. But, he said, “neither is particularly extreme or avant-garde.”

The more traditional design proposes moving the School of Information to North Campus. The proposal also shows a new computer science building, which already is being designed, on the north side of campus; an extension of Pierpont Commons to the west of the existing building; housing, research or a hotel on Fuller Road; and exhibition/gallery/student union space on the north side of campus. It also shows places for a potential academic building, dance studios and market housing.

The plans for the more modern design include a residential college on the north side of campus, a library annex, housing on Fuller Road, an extension of the architecture building, and a site for housing, a hotel, research labs or offices on Fuller. Like the other proposal, it includes a meditation hall for people of all religions.

The designs address the need for more spaces on a pedestrian scale and a finer-grained network of streets, Kelbaugh said. Another change would be more public destinations and amenities on campus.

“We need places to have a date and to have a drink,” Kelbaugh said.

His suggestion that the campus needs a pub along the Huron River drew applause from the packed auditorium at the Art and Architecture Building. The idea that the administration offices now housed in the Fleming building move to North Campus, on the other hand, inspired skeptical laughter.

Ideally, the changes to North Campus would be made in some form in the next 10–20 years or so, Kelbaugh said.

Money would have to come from the University and outside sources, he said. “This is meant to whet the appetite of donors, as much as anything.”

Drawings and models are on display 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday in room 2106 of the Art and Architecture Building, through Oct. 30.

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