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Central District Plan driving transformation of KU's modern center

Thursday, November 13, 2014

LAWRENCE — From the building that welcomed KU’s first class in 1866, Old North College, to the area west of Allen Fieldhouse today, the center of the University of Kansas campus has shifted significantly in 148 years.

Now, as part of KU’s 2014-2024 Campus Master Plan, the university has developed a Central District Plan to transform the modern center of campus into a hub for integrated sciences, student services and learning, residential life and green space.

The Central District Plan outlines a future guided by KU’s strategic plan, Bold Aspirations. It includes two parcels dedicated to Innovation Way — the central physical component of the Campus Master Plan — three areas dedicated to student housing and apartments, additional parking and green space, and new roads and roundabouts. The Central District is linked by the Jayhawk Trail, an accessible, multiuse path connecting campus from the Kansas Union to the West District.

“This is KU’s biggest opportunity since its founding to reimagine the campus,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said. “By shifting the center of campus westward, Innovation Way will serve as the meeting point for discovery and invention. Innovative new laboratories and spaces for learning and engagement will promote new multidisciplinary solutions, which will transfer into new products, technologies and jobs and dovetail with the work being done at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center. We will make these connections not around our edges, but in the very heart of campus.”

The plan puts into place the first phase of Innovation Way — two Integrated Science Buildings and a new student union space — along Irving Hill Road, with a future phase planned on an extended Ellis Drive. The Integrated Science Buildings will offer the latest technologies and innovations in laboratory and support service space and shared core service labs, plus additional commons space and space reserved for university outreach and external partnerships. Burge Union will be reimagined as an interactive student space complete with active-learning classrooms, engaging 24-hour study spaces, and new food and retail options.

“Innovation Way is a rare chance to revolutionize scientific learning and discovery at KU and in Kansas,” said Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “Our faculty and student researchers have kept up with the rapid pace of scientific advancement, but the facilities where they teach, learn and work have not. Remember, our current facilities were built before we put a man on the moon. I can only begin to imagine how our researchers’ work will flourish working with 21st century technology. This is an investment that will propel our university and our state to the leading edge.”

In addition to Innovation Way, the mixed-use “Gateway” apartment complex called for in the Campus Master Plan will be between Ellis Drive and Ousdahl Road along 19th Street, along with a housing development on the current McCollum Hall site and the recently announced residence hall near Oliver Hall. New parking facilities, potential retail space and related infrastructure are also planned.

The university is exploring numerous options, including public-private partnerships, for the financing, construction and maintenance of these facilities. These alternatives are being considered to meet a set of goals that include proactively preparing for future challenges facing state and federal funding; accelerating capital project schedules; maintaining and enhancing KU’s competitive position; and minimizing reliance on student fees.