LAFAYETTE — Feedback given this week is shaping the future of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
A series of charrettes, or feedback sessions, with designers about the university’s master plan have been ongoing this week. The sessions conclude Nov. 2 with a closing presentation scheduled at 6 p.m. in Room 222 in Wharton Hall on campus.
“The final plan that evolves will be a result of the input from the charrettes,” said Steve Oubre, whose firm, Architects Southwest, is developing the plan.
The master plan will help guide the university’s growth over the next 15 years and focuses on growth on the main campus and commons area, which includes the research park, athletic complexes and intramural fields.
The vision includes new parking garages for the main campus; new married student housing; and a major growth of the research park into a research village with retail, public and private sector research buildings, housing, a performing arts center and a new hotel. Planners are also drawing up scenarios for the expansions of Cajun Field and the Cajundome Convention Center. Potential development of the former Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center is also being explored.
During a charrette with students Thursday afternoon, discussions centered on students’ pet peeve: transit and parking.
The majority of students park at Cajun Field and catch a bus to the main campus.
Oubre said planners are considering the construction of more parking garages on or closer to the main campus.
The construction of a garage on university-owned property near Olde Tyme Grocery would cost about $28 million. It would cost the same to buy more buses to create a transit system as efficient as DisneyWorld, Oubre said.
Either change would need to be funded by students through a fee, he told them.
“Which would you pick?” Oubre asked students.
By a show of hands, the group of about 20 students was split.
More bike pathways will also help reduce vehicle traffic on campus, Oubre said.
It’s possible that the four lanes of vehicle traffic on St. Mary Boulevard through the main campus will be reduced to two lanes with the outer lanes used as bike lanes, he said.
David “Dirt” Boulanger, 33, a renewable resources major, told Oubre he liked the plan, but asked if steps would be taken to preserve the campus’ historical oak trees.
“There was a really nice tree that got cut down for the new dorms and we don’t want to see that happen again,” Boulanger said.
Oubre said on a recent project, the university reduced spaces in a parking garage at a major expense to save one tree planned for removal.
“(We) had to give up 125 spaces,” Oubre said. “That cost the university a fortune, but they did it because they believed in it.”
Oubre said planners are also seeking ideas that could connect fans at Cajun Field to the main campus on game day. Students shot down his idea to move tailgating to the main campus. The culture may be too hard to change, they said.
The university’s old football field — McNaspy Stadium — was located on the main campus.
Oubre shared with students that one charrette attendee told him when it was relocated “it lost its soul.”
The new soul of the campus will be the university’s Student Union, Oubre said. Construction on the expansion and renovations for the union will begin in August, he said.
“We can re-create the soul of the campus,” he said. “Today, activities on game day are primarily focused on the stadium. If we could create activity on the main campus, we can make that connection.”
“How likely is this possible?” asked Gavin Peters, 20, a sports management major after Oubre’s presentation.
“The reality of this happening the way we envision it is 50/50,” Oubre told him.
Plans for the main academic campus are “100 percent achievable” while plans for the Lourdes site “is at less than 80 percent,” Oubre said. He added that plans to create a research village is gaining traction with interest from national investors.