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October 2006
UNC capital construction program preserves campus beauty
By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald

 

I do not have to tell you that Carolina is in the midst of an unprecedented building program. This summer was the peak of construction, but by summer's end, many of the construction fences started to come down as workers completed several key projects, including parts of the Carolina Physical Science Complex, the Ram Village residence halls near the Smith Center, parking decks at Cobb and Jackson halls, and new stone walls along Raleigh Street.

But no sooner had those projects been unveiled than more fences went up. New utility work throughout campus is affecting our roads. Also just under way is the site preparation for the new music building -- an anchor for the planned arts common where Carolina and the community will come together.

Even I have begun to wonder if UNC really does stand for "University of Never-ending Construction." But we have passed the mid-point of the capital construction program, and the volume of ongoing projects will lessen gradually. I would like to take the opportunity to review what this program means to the university.

We are guided by a campus master plan -- adopted in 2001 after years of collaboration among university representatives, community leaders, neighbors, architects and planners -- that ensures our growth adheres to sound principles that include a commitment to the traditional beauty of our campus.

We are driven by the concept of sustainability that has led to innovative projects like the vegetated rooftops on the Rams Head Center and the School of Nursing's Carrington Hall addition. We are implementing progressive storm water management techniques and aggressively promoting transportation alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles, including fare-free buses (in partnership with Chapel Hill Transit) and the Zipcar system. We are building pedestrian bridges and paths to improve pedestrian safety. All of these measures work to make campus better than ever for Carolina and the Chapel Hill community.

Our new buildings are reflecting the university's architectural traditions while adding contemporary elements. As one example, take a look at how well the new Chapman Hall off South Columbia Street complements older surrounding buildings. Other magnificent buildings are opening all over campus. The FedEx Global Education Center will open next spring as Carolina's new gateway to the world. It is the first building on campus that uses rainwater to flush toilets. Rainwater will also irrigate the building's two green rooftops.

I am excited about Carolina's commitment to restoration and preservation. A number of our more venerable old buildings are being restored to their original architectural glory while being outfitted to meet modern demands.

The Campus Y, long an icon of community service by Carolina students, has been saved by this renewed commitment. Much of that building had been condemned for years. The Y's renovations will be completed in January.

Historically accurate new roofs are going on many old buildings, including Caldwell, Bynum and Person halls. New East and New West are returning to their historic color palates of tan and brown. Soon we will begin reconstructing the historic portico on Gerrard Hall.

We are also restoring the James Lee Love House in Franklin Street's historic district to create a new home to the Center for the Study of the American South. This is a good fit for the university and its neighbors.

As we build, we are deeply committed to preserving the natural beauty of campus. Extensive measures are taken to preserve trees in the historic quadrangles and natural areas. Through the master plan, we are replacing some surface parking areas with new green spaces.

Landscaping will knit all that is new and old together in the campus fabric that makes campus such an idyllic setting within the Chapel Hill community. Small gardens are one part of these efforts. A Thomas Wolfe memorial statue and garden was recently dedicated between Murphey and Greenlaw halls.

The Carolina Alumni Memorial Garden is being installed along Cameron Avenue between Memorial and Phillips halls.

We are creating new streetscapes along Manning Drive and on South Road near the Student Stores. We have made significant improvements at the intersection of Country Club Road and Gimghoul Road and the surrounding area, including the new Memorial Grove, an ashes garden, on that corner of campus.

More landscape enhancements are beautifying the area around the Cobb deck and chiller plant.

Carolina's campus has long been the envy of universities worldwide and a source of pride and enjoyment for the community. Take a walk along the low stone wall borders of campus or on the brick walks crossing lawns shaded by a canopy of old trees, and it is clear that we have something very special here.

We are taking extraordinary care to ensure that Carolina's distinctive landscape remains distinctly Carolina. We take the long view to the future with a reverence to our past, and I am truly proud of what we are accomplishing.

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages at jmoeser@unc.edu





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