Academic 'main street' proposed for campus


At today's Board of Trustees meeting, Board members accepted an enhanced master guide plan that includes an academic "main street" for campus and heard about ideas intended to further strengthen Summit College.

New master guide plan

See also:

Akron Beacon Journal editorial: Way of the future, June 16

The Board accepted an enhanced master guide plan developed by Sasaki Associates of Boston and presented to the Board by President Luis M. Proenza, Ted Curtis, Vice President of Capital Planning and Facilities Management, and Mike Sherman, Senior Vice President, Provost and Chief Operating Officer.

The plan, which builds upon the original 1999 master guide plan, presents a vision for the campus closely aligned with the mission and aspirations for growth set forth in Vision 2020, the University’s strategic plan endorsed by the Board in January, 2012.

The guide plan touches the full spectrum of university activity: academics and research, residential life, athletics and recreation, open space, transportation and parking, energy and infrastructure, and sustainability.

Stakeholders representing many constituencies—including students, faculty and staff, the City of Akron, University Park Alliance and the Board of Trustees--collaborated extensively in the planning process through many public forums and meetings.

Rather than focusing on specific projects, the plan sets forth principles behind a structure for campus change: learning and research; connecting and partnering. These principles will guide decisions, from restoration and rehabilitation of current campus structures to the planning and building of new ones.

Central to the plan is the creation of the Academic Way, essentially a “main street” that promotes academic interaction across disciplines, a focal point for the student experience, and an opportunity to improve physical connections within campus and with the community.

Some specific highlights of the master guide plan include:

  • The Academic Way links important campus addresses like Bierce Library, Zook, Ayer, Crouse, Knight, Goodyear Polymer Center, School of Law, College of Business, Polsky and downtown Akron. Many of these buildings are prime candidates for renewal and adaptive reuse.
  • The Academic Way is a pedestrian-based “spine” connecting the campus with downtown Akron. An efficient low-impact people mover is envisioned to travel the one-mile route from the east parking deck to the Polsky garage.
  • To foster a 24/7 learning environment, on-campus residential districts will be “densified” and partnership opportunities leveraged to strengthen off-campus neighborhoods, particularly in the southern neighborhood around Buchtel Field and at Quaker Square.
  • Some academic programs may be relocated to foster academic synergies. For example, the potential for creating a health professions “district” might bring together programs in nursing, family and consumer sciences, nutrition, and sports sciences and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Existing programs in the Polsky Building, such as language pathology and audiology, could remain downtown—so that the health professions become identity anchors to both the eastern and western gateways of the Academic Way.

Images of the proposed "Academic Way"

Academic Way

See more before and after images of the Academic Way.

The plan calls for building use to support multidisciplinary collaboration, flexibility for adaptive reuse over time, and sustainability in energy consumption.

Two potential scenarios were identified for replacing the James A. Rhodes Arena. The first is to build the new arena in a consolidated athletics district near InfoCision Stadium. The second option is to partner with the city to attract appropriate funding to develop a new arena downtown, opposite the Akron Aeros baseball stadium on South Main Street.

More than a decade ago, University officials worked with Sasaki Associates of Boston on a plan accepted in 1999 that set the groundwork for the New Landscape for Learning initiative, which has included the addition of 20 new buildings, 18 major additions, acquisitions and renovations, and 34 acres of new green space.

Ideas for Summit College

The University is considering ideas about Summit College that would strengthen its appeal to prospective students and local employers. Provost Mike Sherman and Summit College Dean Stan Silverman presented the ideas to the Trustees earlier today.

Before a formal recommendation is presented to the Board, all proposed changes will be discussed with faculty and staff within the college, follow the Faculty Senate governance process, and involve other campus constituencies as necessary.

The following ideas were discussed:

  1. modify the name of the college to something like "UA – Summit College of Technology and Applied (or Professional) Studies."
  2. examine the benefits of upgrading the college's status to that of a branch campus.

The proposed name change would strengthen the college's identity to critical audiences, especially prospective students and local employers.  A new name would better recognize the attributes of its programs, and it would differentiate the college through a better alignment with technical workforce needs. Further, a new name would emphasize the college's focus on work-sector degrees.

The proposed status change to a branch campus would carry those attributes, plus it would:

  1. align the University better with the University System of Ohio's reporting structure; and
  2. strengthen the University's ability to serve students who need remedial work, at a lower cost.

The Board will reconvene for public session at 10 a.m. Aug. 8, in the Student Union, Room 339