(11/20) Mount St. Mary's University, the second oldest
independent Catholic university in the country, has begun to implement changes
spawned by the development of a campus master plan.
Greg Kniesler, director of Mount St. Mary's Engineering
and Capital Projects, recently told The Dispatch the university is not looking
at a dramatic increase in students over the next decade, but is looking to
celebrate the university's bicentennial, improve the functionality of
already-existing campus resources, and plan for new structures that would
enhance the campus community.
In addition, whatever changes may take place,
university President Thomas H. Powell has stipulated that changes must
promulgate the Catholic identity and mission throughout the campus.
Development of the master plan
The Mount began working on its master plan in 2004,
contracting with Ayers/Saint/Gross, a Baltimore firm that provides master
planning and architectural services for college and university campuses.
The entire master plan process, completed June 2005,
cost the university less than $100,000, according to Kniesler.
According to the report prepared by Ayers/Saint/Gross,
the plan developers faced a number of challenging issues from the outset,
- Many of the existing buildings were old and in need
- Walkways and parking areas had not been well-placed
or thought out;
- Vistas between buildings were so great it created
the illusion of increased walking distances;
- Pedestrian and vehicular traffic is sometimes mixed
- There are no standards for things like lighting,
seating, trashcans and other universal utilities;
- The architecture between buildings did not always
- The campus is separated by U.S. 15;
- There is no real main entrance to the university.
In addition, the planners were asked to "identify
building sites for the future" within walking distance of the existing campus,
both for potential campus structures and expanded parking areas, according to
To address objectives and the perceived existing
deficiencies, the consulting firm developed a strategy that included six
- Ensure that the Catholic identity and mission is
reflected throughout the campus.
- Address the landscape and pedestrian experience.
- Address entrances and gateways.
- Construct the Founder's Plaza.
- Improve residential life (housing and related).
- Develop a high-quality athletic atmosphere.
The six main goals listed are not in sequential order.
Work on some of them will occur simultaneously; and achieving others may take
multiple years. One of them, ensuring that the Catholic identity and mission is
reflected throughout the campus, will be woven throughout the creation process.
Also, the entire master plan is not written in stone.
It was developed to provide direction, not provide a definitive set of
instructions. It allows for flexibility.
For example, a conceptual sketch showing a pedestrian
crossover spanning U.S. 15 from the athletic facilities to the academic campus
will probably not be pursued. However, it is at least on the "wish list."
Some of the proposed projects are already underway.
Work on the new Waldron Family Stadium and the E.T. Straw Baseball Stadium is
nearing completion. Work on the Founders Plaza, part of the Mount's
bicentennial projects and considered the first project undertaken under the
master plan, has progressed significantly since the groundbreaking ceremony on
The next major undertaking as part of the master plan
is the construction of the new "Bicentennial Hall" on Annandale Road, a
residence hall that will house more than 180 students. The university is
awaiting permits from Frederick County to begin work.
The Mount will also be looking at ways to reconfigure
the cement walkways that seem to form a mini airport-looking web across some of
the campus grounds, possibly incorporating a fountain as a hub of any new
In the less-immediate future…
On the mountainside behind the campus lies the
seemingly isolated Grotto, university property that the staff would like to
tie-in better with the campus. A new, small museum/visitor center at the Grotto
is planned for 2008.
The campus has grown somewhat naturally over the
decades into two separate sub-campuses, an academic one on the west side of
U.S. 15 and an athletic one on the east side. The master plan calls for the
continuance of and expansion on that divide.
Areas identified in the master plan could house future
academic-related structures. Included would be several buildings on the west
side of U.S. 15, a potential building next to the existing service barn, and
expanding on the Flynn Hall performing arts building.
A "key building site" has also been identified adjacent
to U.S. 15 behind the William J. McGowan Center, Kniesler stated. The site is
located "on a knoll with a great view."
On the west side of U.S. 15, future development could
include a number of residences for university staff and expanded sports
The plan, as conceived, covers a ten-year period,
possibly longer, depending on progress and funding. Kniesler said, "We are
still assessing how much we want to do. We may not do it (all) as described in
Additionally, because the plan is flexible and could
change, there is no real projected bottom line cost for total implementation.
"We have no idea of the cost of implementing the entire plan," Kniesler told
The Dispatch. "What the plan does is it gives us a framework to move a lot of
individual projects forward (with one vision)."
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