Campus master plan offers ideas for future
Students arriving at Bowdoin six years from now will likely discover a new hockey arena, two new residence halls, a new bookstore, and revitalized housing. Visitors in 2025 may discover a new visual arts center, along with a plethora of other new buildings. And the Bowdoin of 2050 may include a new secondary quad down by the train tracks, and a Hubbard Hall library.
This look into the future is found in the new draft of the campus master plan, unveiled to students on Tuesday. The plan, 14 months in the making, will provide a general guide for Bowdoin for the next half-century.
"We've got a base of information from which to think about," said College President Barry Mills in an interview Thursday.
Mills said he regrets calling the results a "master plan," since it is in no way finalized.
"These are general directions for the future of the College," said Assistant to the President Scott Meiklejohn at Tuesday's presentation.
The plan was developed by the College in conjunction with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOC), a Chicago consulting firm. SOC's Douglas Voigt was one of the chief architects of the plan.
"The keystone of all this is supporting the academic mission of the College," Voigt said.
Speculation that the College may expand the population of the College was categorically denied by Mills. "We have no plans on expanding the size of the college in any material way," Mills said.
The plan was first presented to Trustees in the fall. Organizers insist that it is only a guiding vision. The early part of the plan, Bowdoin in 2010, is the most specific portion.
2010 plans nearly concrete
By 2010, new buildings are expected to include the currently-in-construction Kanbar Hall, two residence halls, a new hockey arena, and a new bookstore.
Officials also hope for renovation of the first-year dormitories, a new concert hall in Curtis Pool, a renovated Walker Art Building, and improvements to Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. Mills noted that all renovations and new construction are dependent on available funds.
But, according to the plan, a new hockey rink will replace Dayton Arena and will likely be located near the Farley Fieldhouse. Planners want to eventually use the Dayton site for academic purposes in order, they say, to keep academics close to the core.
"All of these projects are meeting academic needs," Voigt said.
The plan for 2010 also includes placing a bookstore on the cusp of the downtown-on Maine Street across from the First Parish Church. A bookstore there could increase sales and help to brighten up the entrance to the campus, officials said.
"The least attractive parts of downtown are right where it bridges to campus," said Meiklejohn.
"Perhaps the bookstore should move out of Smith Union and become more of a gateway," Voigt said.
Mills said, though, that the location of the bookstore is far from finalized. Officials will consider a number of possible locations, and the Maine Street location is only an idea.
"The bookstore is a perfect example of how this isn't a plan," Mills said.
Most of the other concepts, though, are close to fruition. A new concert hall inside of Curtis Pool is planned, and many of the projects are well into development.
"The stuff we're talking about happening between now and 2010 will pretty much happen," said Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood.
2025 sees major changes
The plan's look at 2025 is broader than that of 2010. The strategy includes more than a half-dozen new developments, including on the College Street and Bath Road areas, a new visual arts center, a new arctic museum, new Brunswick Apartments, and buildings near Chamberlain and the current Dayton Arena site.
Sargent and Morrell Gym could be renovated, along with the Hatch Science Library and Adams Hall. Dudley Coe, which officials point to as a small building, could be demolished along with Pine Street Apartments, the Visual Arts Center, and various Bowdoin-owned houses on College Street.
Planners would like to see housing move closer to the center of campus, so students have to drive less.
Far away: 2050
Ideas for 2050 are even wider, and perhaps more lofty. There is talk about developing the whole block of land on which the current McClellan building sits (near the train tracks downtown.)
"We're showing this urban village that could provide additional housing," Voigt said. The plan also shows a train station, which, like all parts of the plan, may or may not come into fruition.
"We've talked with [the town] in a very general way on redevelopment of that area" between Dunkin Donuts and the First Parish Church, Meiklejohn said.
One notable on-campus addition for futuristic Bowdoin is the destruction of Hawthrone-Longfellow Library. Planners envision an expansion of Hubbard Hall backward toward College Street. This way, Hubbard could be made the center of campus in both a physical and academic sense.
The library, Voigt feels, could be made into a "beacon to the community that this is Bowdoin College."
In coming to the current draft plan, officials have considered numerous proposals. Planners like the idea of "long walks" to replace current roads or parking areas. For example, the paved area from College Street to the polar bear statue, and across to Bath Road, could eventually be made into one long walking path. A similar situation could occur from the central campus to Farley Field House.
Officials also eventually anticipate a new basketball gym near Farley. Morrell Gymnasium would be used as an intramural facility, and Sargent Gymnasium would be used for other purposes.
Planners also acknowledged the importance of quads to the College. "It is important to first-year students to have their identity with the quad," Voigt said.
New quads may eventually be built. "We were trying to identify the next quad," he said.
For Mills, though, the greatest excitement does not develop from the idea of new modern buildings and walkways.
"What's really important at this college is the relationship between people [and] the quality of the academic program," he said.
He hopes that the new buildings will help to facilitate academics. He pointed to the renovated art museum and the new concert hall as exciting projects that will only make academics here better.
"Buildings are about the program," he said, and improving buildings is part of the making the program better.
Some at Tuesday's meeting were very concerned about community response to the plan, saying that area residents might voice their concerns when they see the developments.
"If my ex-husband saw this, it'd be a Times Record headline!" remarked one Bowdoin employee in the audience.
Officials at all levels, though, assure that members of the community do not need to be overly worried at this point.
"We have a community here that may or may not understand what a long-term master plan might mean," Hood said. "This is sort of a planning exercise and not really a construction diagram."
Mills said that there is no need for the College and the "wonderful Brunswick community" to disconnect over the issue. The College will work in conjunction with the community, he said, and what is good for one is often good for the other. He pointed to how a renovated art museum could bring visitors from far and wide.
"Every aspect of this plan will have public input," Hood said. "We want people to see the plan."
While some people may notice property alterations in the 2050 draft, officials again insist that everything here is very preliminary. "What raises more questions is neighbors' sense that we are following a plan and not telling them about it," Meiklejohn said. "So getting our thoughts on the table seems like a better choice."
Planners met with one or two classrooms of students to discuss the plan before it was unveiled, but said that student involvement will be greater as actual construction comes to fruition.
"As we begin to think about these projects as a reality, we will involve students," Mills said.
The plan was first presented to the Board of Trustees last fall. "It's important to get the governing boards' reaction to the direction that the College is going first," Meiklejohn said.
Less than a half-dozen students were at Tuesday's presentation (the presentation was repeated to an architecture class that night and to students and staff again on Wednesday.) Alex Paul '06 was one of the students who attended.
He said he was not sure about moving the bookstore away from its current location. "I really think that it really works well in the Union itself," he said. "There's nothing down [near the new possible location on Maine Street], it seems like it's off the central campus."
Overall, though, he liked the plan. "You get sort of a glimpse into the future," he said.
The College refused to disclose the fee paid to SOM for the plan. "Against the value of Bowdoin's campus (between $250 and $300 million) and the value of planned construction (perhaps $100 million of construction and renovation in the near term) it is a very, very small amount of money," Meiklejohn said in an email to this publication.
The Orient confirmed that the amount was indeed small, and the fee included development plans for short-term projects like Dayton Arena and Kanbar Hall.
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) Vice President of Facilities Elliot Wright '04 said that BSG may survey student opinion of the plan. "We feel that students are going to be the best audience for the plan and the most productive informants," he said.
"I can only say that I really think the administration picked the right design firm to answer our growth questions as a college," Wright said.
Paul was also optimistic. "It's kind of cool to think about what could eventually happen," he said.
Members of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill present future campus design possibilities.
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