The campus master plan update is the culmination of collaborative planning, involving broad participation on the part of the on- and off-campus communities. Throughout the process, the consultant team met regularly with the UALR Campus Master Plan Update (CMPU) Committee, the chancellor, and the Board of Visitors. At every stage, the campus and larger communities were involved through a variety of forums including workshops, neighborhood meetings, and public open houses. Concurrent planning for the campus and University District allowed for the seamless integration of ideas.
At the outset of the process, the consultant team, in collaboration with the CMPU Committee, divided the planning process into the following six phases:
- Strategic Review – review of recent relevant studies related to the University’s mission and strategic goals and role within the larger region.
- Functional Analysis – review and analysis of existing data on enrollment projections, space utilization, and environmental scans.
- Physical Analysis – inventory and analysis of the existing physical conditions of the campus and surrounding community, including buildings, circulation, open space, parking, and infrastructure.
- Visioning the Future Campus – through a series of visioning sessions, thinking “big ideas” and crafting those into a vision statement that establishes the thematic goals and objectives for future physical modifications and/or additions to the campus.
- Campus Physical Plan – development of options for campus land use and urban design, following from the vision statement.
- Campus Master Plan Report – documentation of the master planning process, goals, and recommendations.
Cultural and historic resources are vital to any university, helping to reinforce university programs and, with engagement and partnerships, promote a more robust and diversified range of offerings and opportunities. UALR is fortunate to be located within a region of the state that has an abundance of both.
A brief listing of art and cultural institutions found within the greater Little Rock region include:
William J. Clinton Presidential Center, Aerospace Education Center / IMAX, Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Central High School and Visitors Center, Children’s Museum of Arkansas, EMOBA – Museum of Black Arkansans, Historic Arkansas Museum, Museum of Discovery, Old State House, Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, the Little Rock Zoo, and the City of Little Rock Parks and Recreation System Cultural Affairs Division.
The City of Little Rock has a rich history, with numerous historic structures and areas designated as Historic Districts in the National Register. These areas reflect the distinct and varied character of the city’s past and together create a vibrant mosaic of living history. Each district contains cultural and historic significance that, through partnerships and linkages, may be a vital component of the UALR experience. Several of the National Register Historic Districts located in Little Rock include:
Central High School Neighborhood Historic District, the Governor’s Mansion Historic District, Hillcrest Historic District, MacArthur Park Historic District, Marshall Square Historic District, Philander Smith College Historic District, the Railroad Call Historic District, the South Main Street Apartments Historic District, and the South Scott Street Historic District.
Located in the transitional zone between the rolling foothills of the Ouachita Mountains and the northern reaches of the Gulf Coastal Plain, the campus provides dramatic contrasts in topography from steep hills to large expanses of primarily pine flatland. While these conditions afford wonderful landscape variety and dramatic viewsheds, the hills pose ADA accessibility challenges, and much of the flatlands are located within the FEMA floodplain or floodway, often precluding the building of structures.
Slopes greater than 4.99 percent, requiring modifications to meet ADA accessibility requirements, are found in the following areas of campus:
- Between the Stephens Center and new Fillmore Street Lot.
- Between East Campus Drive and the new surface parking Lot #15.
- Between Coleman Creek and the Safeway/Ward Construction properties.
- At Engineering Technology and Applied Sciences and Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development, largely west of College Walk.
UALR is blessed with an extraordinary natural asset—a creek that runs diagonally across the entire length of its campus. This potentially beautiful waterway, known as Coleman Creek, is part of the regional drainage system that empties into the Fourche Creek Wetlands immediately south of the campus.
Within the campus, the creek has remained essentially undeveloped with large vegetated areas paralleling its course. Unfortunately, sections north of the campus are channeled and cross highly developed neighborhoods, where increased stormwater flow into the creek creates a high potential for flooding within the campus to the south. Since large areas of the campus are within FEMA-designated floodplain or floodway, the waterway puts limitations on development.
Existing campus buildings represent a range of architectural typologies, material treatment, scale, age, and condition. Typically, buildings are fabricated of brick, concrete, or a combination of the two. Several newer facilities have incorporated larger areas of glass, which help to enliven interior spaces by providing more natural daylighting, and establish a more inviting and open feeling to the pedestrian through the use of glass entries and foyers.
There are dramatic inconsistencies among buildings relative to technology, efficiency, facility condition, and user amenities. The most noticeable concerns are:
- Buildings configured to preclude windows in offices and classrooms.
- Buildings with exterior circulation systems, requiring users to exit conditioned space to access other classrooms, offices, and restrooms.
- Buildings lacking insulation and with exposed infrastructure in poor condition.
- Temporary—but now permanent—structures that house important programs and services.
Buildings were analyzed and grouped into three categories: 1) buildings in good condition, 2) buildings in need of interior renovation and/or façade improvements, and 3) buildings that should be demolished. Each determination was based on building condition, renovation affordability, infrastructure, space and energy efficiency, user-friendliness, and environmental health.
The following buildings are recommended for interior renovation and/or façade improvements:
- South and North Administration, Stabler Hall, and Fribourgh Hall.
- Short-term renovations are proposed for the big-box University Plaza structure.
Buildings meeting one or more of the following criteria were identified for demolition:
- Renovation to current standards would be financially prohibitive.
- Buildings are inefficient and located within the academic core, thereby occupying valuable space for new development.
- Temporary structures are located within the campus—especially those housing critical programs or services.
The following buildings are recommended for demolition:
- Education, Larson Hall, Earth Sciences, Physics, Student Union A, Physical Plant, Dance Studio/HYPER II, Speech Building, University Services, Department of Public Safety, Greenhouse, Housing Office, Safeway, James Worth Construction, and the University Plaza property buildings east of Campus Drive.
Additional buildings identified for long-range removal are:
- University Plaza structures, chancellor’s residence, Central Utility, and all structures on non-UALR-owned properties located within the campus planning boundary.
Pedestrian circulation at UALR is typical of many metropolitan campuses that have grown and evolved within urban neighborhoods. A high-volume neighborhood and regional roadway lies alongside the campus, and the surrounding roadway grid reaches into and cuts across the campus. Without a well-designed and articulated pedestrian safety system, these conditions have resulted in pervasive pedestrian-vehicular conflicts. Fortunately, the UALR Pedestrian Safety Task Force already has begun to address these issues. Since the UALR Campus Pedestrian Safety Report (2004) provides a comprehensive review of current best practices and recommendations related mostly to campus edge streets, the master plan analysis focuses on internal pedestrian circulation only.
Existing circulation within the core campus consists of a mixture of primary corridors, random pathways, sidewalks, and “cow paths”—the informal dirt paths etched into lawns over time by repeated use. As a whole, these routes provide basic circulation but do not form a cohesive network with a clear hierarchy and consistent design character. Moreover, they do not provide formal or direct access to desired locations, as evidenced by the many cow paths.
The central north-south corridor, known as College Walk, serves as the primary pedestrian spine through the core campus. This critical corridor is inconsistent in its design and configuration; the varying widths, different lighting, and numerous changes in material make wayfinding difficult and detract from the aesthetic experience of the campus. Compounding the confusion is the abrupt and unceremonious way in which the corridor ends—at the Lot #8 access road to the north, and at University Drive to the south. In both cases, pedestrians must vie with cars to proceed to their desired destination.
While College Walk could—and should—be improved, it does provide direct north-south campus pedestrian circulation. Currently, there is no corresponding east-west primary corridor; rather, circulation occurs across a web of narrow and indirect walkways, sidewalks, and paths. As the University extends development into the eastern areas of campus, this lack of clear and orderly circulation will create increasingly hazardous pedestrian conditions.
The numerous walkways and sidewalks within the campus are often uncomfortably narrow and in need of repair, due in large measure to destruction from tree roots, and they fail to provide direct access to desired locations. Sidewalks along roadways with angled parking are especially hazardous to pedestrians, particularly the visually impaired, since parked vehicles overhang the narrow walkways, forcing pedestrians to venture onto adjacent unpaved surfaces.
Along the western edge of the campus at University Avenue, a pleasant on-campus pathway runs north to south, from 28th Street to University Drive. Although the pathway is heavily used and much valued by the campus community, there is minimal landscape along its edges, and users must pass by unscreened dumpsters, parking, and service and loading docks. Expansion of the pathway into a campus loop trail would provide the campus community with better access and greater opportunities for exercise.
The campus is bound on the west and south by major, high-volume arterial roadways that serve the city, region, and state. On the west is University Avenue, which connects with U.S. Interstate 630 (I-630) and serves as a north-south corridor; to the south is the east-west Asher/Colonel Glenn Avenue corridor. These major roadways provide direct and easy access to the campus. However, since the roadways and their intersection are typically congested, savvy drivers circumvent their use by cutting through the campus, often at high speeds. As a result, the campus experiences a high volume of traffic not destined for UALR, usually coinciding with peak use periods.
The campus is bound to the east by Fair Park Boulevard, a neighborhood roadway, and to the north by West 20th Street, a local access road that runs between Fair Park Boulevard and Fillmore Street. In its current configuration, Fair Park Boulevard is appropriately scaled for both the neighborhood and campus, but lacks a defining streetscape to distinguish it as part of the University District. As the campus expands eastward, traffic on Fair Park should be periodically re-examined to assure that use-levels do not burden the community or create a barrier to pedestrian access east of campus. Use of West 20th Street is currently limited to local traffic, and the two lanes are adequate for those purposes. However, if the University expands its holdings and develops northward, this roadway will need to be expanded to connect with University Avenue to provide access to east-west traffic between University and Fair Park along the northern edge of campus.
UALR has many vehicular entrances with varying levels of importance and visibility. The two primary gateways occur along University Avenue at the intersections with West 28th Street and University Drive. The West 28th gateway is the northernmost and first point of campus entry for traffic heading south from I-630. As a result, it has the highest level of service and is typically congested at peak periods throughout the day. UALR signage—including the digital marquee—adequately identifies this entrance. To the south, the University Drive entrance receives less traffic, but it also is congested at peak periods, with long exit queues that often extend through several traffic-light cycles. Although the University Drive entrance has the most elaborate UALR signage, the combined effect of its setback from the street and location at the crest of the hill reduces the impact of this entrance as the primary gateway to the campus.
The remaining campus entrances—Campus Drive at Asher Avenue, and West 32nd and West 28th streets at Fair Park Boulevard—handle significantly lower volumes of traffic and do not have significant gateway signage. However, these secondary entrances should be identified with wayfinding signage consistent with other gateways.
The campus interior is currently crisscrossed by a number of roadways that are remnants of the neighborhood grid system, augmented by new service and parking access roads. The existing roads result in large measure from two factors—the University’s gradual expansion within a pre-existing neighborhood, and its role as a commuter campus that needs quick vehicular access to parking adjacent to buildings. While the primary internal roadways are ample in design and well maintained, they are often congested with vehicles whose drivers are seeking close-in building and parking access, frequently in vain. The congestion and unsuccessful searching can result in frustration and impolite behavior that are not conducive to community-building.
The two primary internal roadways, University Drive and Campus Drive, bisect the campus into north-south and east-west zones that feel isolated and not part of one cohesive campus. In addition, the division of northern Campus Drive into east and west one-way streets paralleling Coleman Creek virtually cuts off this important campus amenity from use. On the access road to Lot #8 and the Donaghey Student Center service road, conflicts occur between pedestrians and vehicles traveling on the same roadway surface. Although access corridors to service facilities must be maintained, they can and should be configured as mixed-use systems. Lastly, with few exceptions the majority of the on-campus service areas—dumpsters, loading docks, etc.—are not adequately screened from view.
Overall, these existing roadway conditions frustrate drivers, create a dangerous pedestrian environment, and lessen the aesthetic appeal of the campus. In addition, the constant vehicular queuing increases noise levels and environmental pollution within the core.
Currently, UALR does not have a defined bicycle network in place, but rather relies on the use of existing roadways and pedestrian walkways. Consequently, bicyclists are at risk to themselves and to pedestrians. There is demand for a defined bike network and the desire on the part of the University to provide it in a safe manner. However, a dramatic increase in campus bike use is not anticipated until two conditions are met—first, an increase in the on-campus residential population to warrant its development, and second, the creation of a neighborhood and/or regional feeder system linking the campus to the larger community, which would encourage bike commuting.
The University presently does not have an internal transit system to service the campus. However, the regional transportation system does provide access to and from UALR at numerous bus stops on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. This is a valuable service for commuters and the on-campus residential population who might want to access regional amenities without using a private vehicle.
According to the UALR’s Parking Space Survey, updated in February 2004, there are approximately 4,540 parking spaces on campus in roughly 41 designated areas (in addition to approximately 799 spaces from the University Plaza acquisition). Spaces identified in the survey range from on-street parking to surface and deck parking, and are divided into roughly seven categories: metered, reserved, open reserved, open with permit, disabled, visitor, and loading spaces.
The campus has many surface parking areas, from large surface lots along its perimeter, to small dedicated lots within the academic core. This seeming abundance of different opportunities, however, does not translate into a surplus of available parking. Analysis indicates that parking demand exceeds the current supply—a condition that only will worsen with completion of the Stephens Center, the new on-campus residences, and the CyberCollege building.
On-street parking, especially along East and West Campus drives, is dangerous and unsightly and causes extensive queuing during peak periods. The older surface lots are confusing and poorly designed. In most instances, they have inadequately delineated aisles and parking bays, and present vast expanses of asphalt without trees and/or planted medians. Fortunately, the University has reversed this trend in the development of new parking areas and is planning to renovate some of the older lots to the new standard.
The existing parking deck is currently not a first-choice destination among students due to the perception that structured parking, in general, is unsafe. Universities across the country have overcome this same safety perception through modifications to lighting levels and types, video monitoring, educational programs, and increased activity in and around parking decks by incorporating office space and other support functions into the structures. This is an issue UALR will need to address as it expands and structured parking becomes an attractive and necessary solution.
|F = Fall|
|S = Spring|
|*# students registered for classes per zone during evening|
First-time visitors to the campus often comment on the abundance of pine trees and the lush and serene setting created by their feathery canopy and tall, straight trunks. More than any other single landscape element, the pines define the UALR campus, and in their consistency, provide an elegant backdrop. However, the pines serve only as backdrop and do not create the critical landscape open spaces—quadrangles, plazas, gardens—in which a campus community lives, works, and plays. UALR has a number of these important landscaped spaces. Key are the historic quadrangle framed by Ross and Larson halls and the Education and Administration buildings; the newer quadrangle fronting Dickinson Hall; the Ottenheimer Library and Student Center plazas; and College Walk. Each contributes greatly to the overall open space character of the campus. While their individual quality and condition vary dramatically, all are in need of improvement.
Another important—but hidden—landscape is Coleman Creek and its adjacent green space that run throughout the length of the campus. Currently, the creek edge is structurally degraded, and its banks are choked with volunteer saplings, shrubs, and debris that limit access to and views of the waterway. Coleman Creek is a missed opportunity; a restored and accessible natural amenity of this significance would be the envy of many a university.
Overall, the campus landscapes remain disparate and do not create a cohesive and interwoven network of spaces despite the presence of the pines. The campus open space should feel like one environment, with a harmonious palette of materials that allows the individual landscapes to fit seamlessly into a unified whole. In addition, whenever a monoculture develops, as with the pine canopy, there is always concern for its continued health; a disease or infestation of pine beetle could rapidly wipe out UALR’s sylvan canopy.
The numerous utilities that run beneath the campus surface and/or along overhead lines are evidence of a well-conceived plan of locating major utility lines within dedicated corridors such as existing roadways and service routes. However, there still remain areas within the campus where overhead utilities detract from its appearance.
Currently, the University is exploring the development of a self-generation power plant in conjunction with locating power distribution lines underground. The proposed facility—to be located outside the campus core—would replace the existing power plant and create enough energy for significant future campus development.