Ball State Master Plan Consultants examine sustainability and community connections

Ball State President Jo Ann Gora, one of the university
Ball State President Jo Ann Gora, one of the university

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Campus master plan consultants returned to campus Tuesday afternoon in order to begin the “analysis phase” of the nearly $500,000 project. The new phase focuses on aspects of the physical campus, including student mobility and the structure of open spaces.

Michael Johnson, urban designer for consulting firm SmithGroupJJR, said in an open-house presentation in the Atrium that the group is looking at the data compiled during the previous discovery phase and asking new questions about what Ball State needs to do to improve.

“We hope to take a deeper dive on some of those questions,” he said. “We are beginning to learn the implications, so when we come back we can share some alternative futures for what Ball State may look like 20-30 years in the future and paths to get there.”

Bernie Hannon, associate vice president of business affairs, said the total cost for the campus master plan is $484,500, which will come out of the general fund.

Johnson pointed out issues on campus like competition on McKinley Avenue between pedestrians, bikers and vehicles as well as undefined spaces on campus like the area between Noyer Complex and the Whitinger Business Building.

Bridging the gap between the Muncie and Ball State communities was another point discussed at the meeting.

“Muncie, as an industrial city, was here first, and Ball State was planted away from the industrial side of town,” Johnson said. “Now, 100 years later, we are asking how to link that better. The goals are the same [as for campus]: we’re talking about improvement, preventing brain drain, neighborhoods, hospitals and schools, sustainability and culture.”

University architect Gregory Graham said the consultants will meet with Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler to better understand the connection.

Johnson said sustainability will be “integral to the plan” and outlined Ball State’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 and the university’s ongoing geothermal project.

The plan will address sustainable storm-water techniques but, Johnson said to be on the cutting edge, Ball State also would have to reuse the rainwater.

Megan Bright, a sophomore fashion design major, was the only student in attendance for the first of two presentations Tuesday.

She said she wasn’t aware before the meeting about the breadth of issues the plan will try to repair and is glad to see sustainability and conservation efforts at the forefront of the group’s plan.

“I hope they alter [the] meal plan system,” Bright said. “I feel like the way we pay for food affects how much food we waste because we feel compelled to spend so much money. I’m glad I could be there to voice my opinion.”

Graham said the previous discovery phase, which asked students to give their opinions on possible university improvements, went well and thinks the consulting firm can get to the “root” of what the university wants to achieve.

“The process has gone very well so far,” Graham said. “It is a complex task to gather information from such a large group of constituents and to distill that information for us to be able to utilize in our decision on the future development of Ball State University.”

A secondary consulting group, Brailsford and Dunlavey, is responsible for recommendations for dining and residence halls. Students can respond to a survey geared toward these issues sent out by Randy Howard, vice president of business affairs, until Thursday.

The consultants will return to campus in December to present preliminary recommendations, refine them before Spring Break and present the final recommendations for the master plan in April 2014.

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