Planning committee proposes pathway

Dan Strumpf

As part of a longstanding effort to improve the appearance and use of space at Northwestern, a planning committee recommended Monday at a town hall-style meeting the construction of a north-southpedestrian walkway that would weave through the center of campus.

The Advisory Committee on University Space Planning offered the recommendation as a possible solution to NU’s lack of a sociable campus center — such as a quad — for students to congregate.

The non-binding recommendation is still in its early stages, said Engineering Prof. Charles Dowding, the committee’s chairman.

Committee members displayed a possible sketch of the pathway at the meeting, which curved along the length of campus and contained one segment crossing over the Lagoon.

But members acknowledged that the drawing was several years old.

Additional planning is needed if the university considered undertaking construction, they said.

“For a long time there’s been an interest in having a central campus focal point,” Dowding said. “In order for this to become a reality, I think we would need sort of a zone study of this pedestrian walkway and its relation to the cooling pond, and also its relation to future construction. The drawing is not the final plan.”

No steps have been taken toward such a study yet, Dowding said.

The committee’s recommendation falls under a broader mission to help guide the future use of campus space.

In March committee members unveiled the “Principles and Commentary on Space Planning,” a preliminary report that laid out guidelines for future construction and use of space at NU.

Committee members called Monday’s town hall meeting to hear feedback on the committee’s original recommendations, which included building renovations, improved traffic routes and better use of the lakefront and campus “green space.”

About 25 students, staff, faculty and administrators attended the meeting.

The committee also unveiled a plan to create a permanent “Campus Planning Committee” to guide future development at the university after the current, two-year-old committee’s lifespan expires in June.

Advisory committee members want the Campus Planning Committee to serve as a clearinghouse for new campus development.

Groups seeking new development or construction on campus would submit a report to the committee assessing a project’s impact on the community.

The committee would review the report and ensure it follows the principles outlined in the March proposal.

If it comes into existence, the committee then would act as an intermediary between groups with disagreements over a project, vastly changing the way new development takes place at NU.

Advisory committee members also hope the permanent committee would prevent the sort of massive conflicts that erupted in 2002 after administrators proposed filling in a portion of the campus Lagoon. Those conflicts resulted in the formation of the advisory committee.

“You could think of the CPC as something that will open up lines of communication between parts of the Northwestern community,” said Economics Prof. Ronald Braeutigam, who sits on the committee.

The handful of students and faculty members who attended the town hall meeting expressed satisfaction with the advisory committee’s recommendations.

Donnie Maley, a Weinberg junior, told the committee he agrees with its suggestion to create a more sociable campus center.

“You cannot create community at Northwestern unless you are spatially structured in a way that fosters a sense of community,” Maley said.

The Advisory Committee on University Space Planning will submit its final report and recommendations to University President Henry Bienen on June 15.