Master Plan set to move ahead with board’s OK


Cherilyn Murer, Board of Trustees member, talks about the importance of using art in the process of bettering campus life on March 27. 

By Lark Lewis

The Board of Trustees voted to demolish Douglas Hall, extend Lucinda Avenue and plant 2,018 trees by the fall semester as the first part of a campus renovation at Thursday’s meeting.

NIU President Doug Baker’s consultant, Ron Walters, presented the Master Plan Thesis to the board and the trustees voted to start making changes to campus, starting with the demolition of Douglas Hall as soon as possible.

“I believe that this plan highlights areas that are very appropriate for redevelopment in one way or another,” said Board Vice Chair Marc Strauss.

The Master Plan Thesis is a short-term segment of the university’s Master Plan to rejuvenate the campus by adding activity and life. Because the Master Plan would take about two years of intense work to develop, Baker said, he implemented the thesis to kickstart improvements because the university doesn’t have a couple more years to solely dedicate to the project.

“I’ve talked about a keystone goal for us being student career success,” Baker said. “Our students are feeling like we need to improve our place.”

Fall semester

Some changes are going to be implemented as soon as the fall.

One of the larger changes is to make Lucinda Avenue what Walters called “a great Main Street” for NIU. With the approved demolition of Douglas Hall, Lucinda will be extended to become a connection from one side of campus to the other. Students will be able to walk from the Convocation Center to the Music Building without winding through walkways and around buildings.

“It’s clear place is having an impact on our ability to recruit and our ability to retain,” Walters said. “There’s a lack of positive impressions and connections on campus.”

The university also plans to plant 2,018 trees to coincide with the graduation year of incoming freshmen, and NIU is considering planting a tree for every returning student to focus on retention.

Food Truck Fridays may also be implemented by next semester. If the event series is implemented, there will be a featured food truck placed at different spots each Friday to bring together students at areas around campus.

Future plans

By partnering with NIU’s transportation provider, Veolia Transportation, Baker hopes to expand the Huskie Bus system.

The expansion will add smaller, electric buses that drive on walkways and get students to buildings Huskie Buses cannot reach. The electric buses and a possible bike rental system would de-emphasize using cars to create a pedestrian-friendly campus.

Of the trustees that voiced their opinions, all of them were in favor of all of the changes to come.

“I think the electric bus system is terrific,” said trustee Cherilyn Murer. “It’s very positive and very exciting.”

All of the Master Plan Thesis changes are focused on improving the university’s student retention and recruitment. Baker said retention has been falling for five years. Enrollment fell from 21,869 in fall 2012 to 21,138 in fall 2013, and the university projects its total enrollment will be down from that by 500 to 800 students in fall 2014.

“If you can’t have people come, thrive and stay, you’re failing your mission,” Baker said.

Staff writer Keith Hernandez contributed to this report.