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May 2006
More Space needed at UNC
By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald

 

Summer, in most cases, brings with it a different kind of schedule at Carolina and a slower pace, even with this year's record summer school enrollment of more than 8,500 students. In recent years, summer has also meant an acceleration in certain construction and renovation projects as we try to minimize any disruption to the local and campus communities during the regular academic year.

Commencement was two weeks ago today. And early the next morning, as 36 new faculty and administrators and I were heading out on the ninth annual Tar Heel Bus Tour, construction crews cordoned off areas of North Campus to begin upgrades to the main steam and hot water lines serving the Campus Y, South Building, Bynum Hall, Steele Building, Gerrard Hall and the Old Playmakers Theatre. Upcoming and extensive renovations to those last two structures are part of our strong commitment to historic preservation.

As the prevalence of construction cranes and equipment permeates the campus, Carolina is in the midst of a capital construction program that is among the most ambitious at any U.S. university. Funding comes from the state's Higher Education Bond Referendum and our investment in future excellence using non-state sources including private gifts and overhead receipts from faculty research grants. This development of new buildings and enhancement of many old ones is critical to the university's academic mission and future success.

As I write, about 95 percent of the $515 million in construction and renovation projects resulting from the state's higher education bond referendum has been completed or is under contract. That represents more than a third of our total construction program. We are rapidly nearing complete build-out of main campus and, as many of you know, are considering the possibilities of amazing discovery and innovation at Carolina North, a new campus to be built on university property two miles north in Chapel Hill. Our draft concept calls for combining academic and research buildings, residences, businesses, green space and public schools.

University leaders first identified the importance of developing the Horace Williams tract 17 years ago. Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the campus have evolved a good deal since then, and the need for a living and learning community at what is now the Horace Williams Airport has grown more acute. At Carolina North, the university will find room to grow in new directions while preserving the special qualities of the main campus.

As we are doing on the main campus, university staff will endeavor to create at Carolina North a welcoming community that honors the environment and serves the people. The principles that we developed in our Campus Master Plan have guided the construction program on our main campus. Our desire in creating the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee has been to solicit community input on principles to guide that development.

At its meeting this week, the university's Board of Trustees made clear its desire to see substantive progress on Carolina North, instructing the administration to report back to the board at its March 2007 on the completed work of the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee. The board further directed that we submit zoning and land development applications for Carolina North to the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro and to Orange County no later than Oct. 1, 2007.

Our goal for Carolina North is to expand the university's multiple missions, boost innovation and redefine Carolina's engagement with the region and the state. The need for space is urgent because there are very few new building sites available on the main campus and many existing buildings do not lend themselves to the kinds of faculty interaction, interdisciplinary collaboration and government and business engagement that are needed as the university seeks to most effectively use its resources to address society's pressing needs and attract jobs and economy activity to the state.

A hallmark of Carolina's academic and research enterprise is the ability of and focus by our faculty, staff and students to collaborate across disciplines and in nontraditional ways. One cannot do that effectively if siloed in spaces here and there across Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Centrally located and integrated space is needed for such entrepreneurship to flourish.

Carolina North will allow the university to continue to be a leading public research institution in an increasingly competitive environment, serving as a catalyst in helping the state be a force in the new economy.

I have asked the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee to help us be thoughtful stewards -- not only of the physical landscape of Carolina North but of the idea and potential of this campus and what it can mean to the university, our community and to this state. While Carolina North will provide room to grow, it has the potential of being a place of amazing discovery and innovation and new model of sustainable community.

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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