Looking ahead a decade…
UALR is a vital urban campus—the educational and cultural hub of a thriving University District. Expanded on-campus housing and a rich array of in- and outdoor gathering places promote social interaction and a strong sense of community on campus. UALR is an active and visible presence in the community, manifest through its myriad programs. Well-defined entrances into campus, the orientation of buildings to the street, a mix of uses responsive to the neighborhoods, cohesive architecture, and a lush, green park-like setting all serve to welcome the community into the campus. Emblematic of the University’s vitality and commitment to the metropolitan area and region are the restoration and enhancement of Coleman Creek, which serves as the centerpiece of the campus and a major recreational and natural resource to the community.
—UALR Campus Vision
The 2005 campus master plan update offers a 10-year vision for the physical development of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) campus, and outlines specific actions to make the plan a reality. The master plan is the culmination of more than a year of collaborative planning, involving the broad participation of both the on- and off-campus communities. The planning process was set within the larger framework of related university and community efforts—notably the UALR Strategic Planning Initiative and planning for the University District. As a result, the campus vision is directly aligned with the University’s strategic vision and with the community’s aspirations for the district.
The master plan lays the groundwork for a rich physical environment that, along with excellent instruction, research, and public service programs, will draw students and community members to the campus. In keeping with UALR’s mission as a metropolitan university, the master plan forges clear connections with the surrounding community, strengthening the University’s role as a cultural and economic resource to the region.
The following are key components of the plan:
Consolidation of Campus Land
Essential to achieving the campus vision is consolidation of land within the planning boundary—the 272 acres bounded by West 20th/24th streets to the north, Fillmore Street/Fair Park Boulevard to the east, Asher Avenue to the south, and South University Avenue to the west (see Figure I-1). Within this area, the master plan assumes that UALR will acquire all parcels not currently owned, in order to create a seamless campus and to support neighborhood revitalization. Of particular importance is the Methodist Children’s Home property, for which the Board of Trustees has purchased the right of first refusal.
Defining Campus Capacity
The master plan update defines the development capacity of UALR’s 272acre planning area. With Coleman Creek as its green center, UALR becomes a denser, more pedestrian-focused campus; building height is increased where appropriate, without compromising campus character. Allowing for a balance of built and open space suitable to an urban institution, the master plan provides for expansion of academic and support space to accommodate enrollment growth to 20,000 students, an increase of 66 percent from the current enrollment of almost 12,000 students.
Expanded On-campus Housing
Consistent with the University’s strategic vision of building a strong sense of campus community, the master plan update calls for a significant increase in on-campus student housing. Ultimately, the plan provides for 1,936 beds of student housing—more than six times the existing 306 beds—and 220 units of faculty, staff, family student, and specialty housing in several locations east of Coleman Creek.
Coleman Creek Greenway
While the master plan extends the existing quads and plazas into an interwoven network of open space, its most significant and sweeping move is the creation of a 47-acre greenway designed around a restored and enhanced Coleman Creek. Reaching the full length of the campus from Asher Avenue to West 20th Street, the greenway—with its lush vegetation, bicycle and walking trails, benches, and bridges—unites the campus and ties it to the regional open space system via the Fourche Creek Wetlands and War Memorial Park. (The 47 acres include the wooded portion of the Methodist Children’s Home property.)
By eliminating outmoded facilities and renovating and adding new facilities that will provide state-of-the-art instructional, lab, and office space, the master plan strengthens the physical resources of the campus in support of UALR’s strategic goal to become a “higher education powerhouse.” New construction and additions are sited to shape outdoor spaces that encourage gathering and to create an attractive and well-integrated campus.
Clear Circulation and Access
The master plan creates clear and memorable entrances into the campus. By consolidating surface parking into garages located mostly on the perimeter of campus and keeping unnecessary auto traffic out of the core, the plan claims the center of campus for pedestrians first. A network of safe and attractive pedestrian paths, walkways, and bridges unifies the campus. College Walk, the central north-south corridor, becomes the pedestrian “main street”—the urban counterpart of Coleman Creek Greenway—extending from the southern end of campus to the Stephens Center.
Connections to the Larger Metropolitan Community
Throughout the planning process, decisions for the campus were made in concert with broader district and city-wide plans. Creating a signature UALR presence at the intersection of Asher and University avenues, a “legal campus” around the School of Law, and a major open space along Coleman Creek are some of the many master plan proposals that firmly connect UALR to the district and larger metropolitan community. The master plan calls for development of the former University Plaza site in a later phase of implementation; however, a public-private partnership would enable UALR to begin construction on this highly visible corner much earlier. Such a move would jump-start revitalization of the district, benefiting both the campus and community.