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UAFS chief updates chamber audience on campus plan

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran took time Friday morning (Jan. 3) to highlight some of the key parts of the university's new 20-year master plan for members of the Fort Smith business community during his address to the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Breakfast.

Beran started the presentation by quoting Alan Kay, who said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

The chancellor said it was something that former Chancellor Joel Stubblefield had accomplished during his tenure at the university and it was something he and the administrative leadership at UAFS were working hard to accomplish during their tenure, leading Beran to ask for an update to Stubblefield's original 20-year master plan.

"Once we finished (the remodel of) the library, we said, 'Where are we going from here?' That's when I said we really need to go through a process. We really can't just start plopping things on land and hoping that's going to be the best place to be. We need some analysis. We need some help, some outside help to give us a new and fresh perspective about what we might do."

As part of gaining that new perspective, Beran said it was imperative to get input from the community, both on-campus and off-campus.

The process took one year, culminating in a public unveiling on Oct. 9, 2013.

When the plan was unveiled, it was revealed that the university's Bell Tower near the center of campus would remain the focal point around which all future development would take place, eventually moving much of the activity taking place on the campus to the campus green.

As reported in October, the only building that faces the campus green is the Baldor building on Kinkead Avenue, but Beran said at that time construction of a new dorm modeled after The Lion's Den, to be located where the school's gym facility is located, along with construction of the new $15 million fine arts center at Waldron and Kinkead, all of which will bring more campus buildings to the campus green.

Beran told business leaders Friday that much of this will require a realignment of campus functions, moving the student union to a different location as well as moving university administrative offices to what is the College of Business, and ultimately tearing down or remodeling several campus buildings in order to make them functional in a 21st century learning environment.

"The goal of the plan is to create a line of sight from Grand Avenue all the way through to Kinkead so that the Bell Tower really becomes the central focus of the campus, which it currently is but our buildings are not strategically placed to completely support that."

Other proposals in the newly-unveiled master plan include:
• An expanded Stubblefield Center, with an auxiliary gym and offices;
• Three new academic buildings centered around the campus green;
• A greek village and a campus ministry village, both located south of the center of campus;
• Replacing the gym with a student recreational facility along Kinkead;
• The construction of an alumni center on the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and Waldron Road, along with new brick signage signifying the start of the campus;
• Construct either a new soccer stadium or softball fields east of campus;
• A new plaza at the current drop-off area on Kinkead across from the Baldor building in addition to a newly-constructed drop off area along Grand Avenue, allowing a fully-open view of the bell tower from north of campus for the first time; and
• Expanding the dining center at The Lion's Den along with expansions at the Smith-Pendergraft University Center, including moving the campus bookstore to the west end of the building.

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Beran said the first building to be constructed as a part of the new master plan will be the new performing arts center at Waldron and Kinkead. The facility will be 58,000-square-feet and will include a 150-seat theater.

The $15.5 million building should open by the fall of 2015.

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