Penn State Intercom......January 25, 2001

Board approves West Campus
plan refinements

The Board of Trustees on Jan. 19 approved refinements to plans for the University's West Campus at University Park, which is bound on the east by North Atherton Street and on the south by a railroad right-of-way, to reflect new opportunities and challenges. BOThousing_family

Eliza Pennypacker, director of campus planning and professor of landscape architecture, outlined a number of key challenges campus planners have met in adopting the 1999 West Campus plan into physical design. She said that Sasaki Associates, a landscape architecture firm known nationally for campus planning, has been working with them to address these issues.

"The first of our challenges is traffic and transportation. We must be very careful that cars accessing the parking deck or our housing do not overload Atherton Street or municipal neighborhoods to the south," she said. "The second is pedestrian safety. We must provide pedestrians safe crossing of Atherton Street -- ideally not just in one location, but in multiple spots."

Other challenges identified were the creation of a landmark building for the new Information Sciences and Technology School; connections that link West Campus visibly and symbolically to core campus, and good design to emulate the qualities valued most in the physical environment of core campus.

The revised Sasaki Master Plan includes housing for families and graduate students at the far west end of West Campus that will foster a sense of community through design. It has a strong pedestrian spine that runs from the student housing community to the academic area to the east.

New West Campus academic buildings are planned with the existing academic buildings to form two quadrangles in a pedestrian-only campus core. The new buildings will accommodate up to 500,000 additional gross-square-feet of space for the College of Engineering.

The new plan also relocates the parking deck to the north side of West Campus.

"Since a surface lot for approximately 800 cars already exists on that side, this location would create the least additional traffic impact," said Pennypacker.

The deck will serve the academic buildings in the area and is likely to be an above-grade structure. However, the architects are also considering a long, low deck terraced into the hillside south of the intramural fields that could form the base of the academic buildings.

The long-term master plan proposes two roads accessing West Campus, both on the periphery to maintain the pedestrian-oriented core. West Campus Drive is proposed to run along the railroad right-of-way past the bus station on Atherton Street, extending to Corl Road and then to the Western Inner Loop, with a possible future extension across Atherton Street to Burrowes Road.

White Course Drive on the north of West Campus is proposed to replace Pollock Road entrance and will meet West Campus Drive to the west of the housing community. The plan also calls for two north-south roads that are likely to be limited access to prevent cut-through traffic -- one on the west to access the housing and community center and one on the east to provide transit and service to the academic buildings.

In her presentation of the proposed IST building, Pennypacker said, "We are enormously enthusiastic about the design and planning for the new building. It brings us innovative design, provides us with a safe pedestrian crossing of Atherton Street and a visible link between West Campus and core campus," Pennypacker explained.

To make an effective and safe campus crossing, the University proposes to close Pollock Road between Atherton and Burrowes and create a new entrance to the core campus immediately north of Rec Hall that will connect Atherton and Curtin Roads.

The existing parklike woodland between Rec Hall, The Nittany Lion Inn and Nittany Lion shrine with its woodland backdrop would remain intact, while the current parking lot in front of the shrine would be replaced by a significantly enlarged civic space.

"The Nittany Lion would no longer be partially hidden behind a sea of parked cars," she said.

"Pedestrians will have four crossings of Atherton, one at the IST building and three signalized intersections -- one at West Campus Drive, one at White Course Drive and one at the Curtin Road extension. Each of these is a "T" or three-way intersection to make crossing easier for pedestrians to navigate." Bicyclists will have trails on and through West Campus linked to the new Blue-White Bike Trail and a new bike trail along the Curtin Road extension, as well as the IST crossing.

"It also is imperative that West Campus be well-served by transit. Consequently, we're working with CATA to determine the most efficient and effective bus routes," she said.

While these plans are long-term, some key facets are proposed to be implemented soon. These include the Curtin Road extension and improvements, closure of Pollock Road on both sides of Atherton Street, relocations of vehicular access to West Campus to the entrance of the future White Course Drive and the West Campus housing community, said Pennypacker.