The following report is scheduled for discussion at the November 15 Council Meeting.

Interim Report of the University Council Committee on Facilities: Campus Development Plan 2000

October 31, 2000

The University Council Committee on Facilities met twice (September 25, October 10) to consider the Campus Development Plan as presented by Vice President of Facilities Services, Mr. Omar Blaik. The Committee would first like to acknowledge the extraordinary amount of thought and effort that is obvious in this plan. The campus is in the debt of its authors. At the same time, however, it must note that this plan is still evolving; indeed the working committees that produced the plan have been meeting just this week. And, as we must all understand, the devil is in the details. So our report is not so much an Interim Report on the Campus Development Plan, as it is a report on the Interim Campus Development Plan. This Committee intends to continue to be involved with the plan as it evolves.

Planning and Opportunism

First, to place the plan in context, the committee made note of the fact that campus development at the University must include a heavy dose of opportunism. Opportunity is not a dirty word in this arena. It would be foolish, indeed, for the University to pass up opportunities to do well, even great things because they weren't planned for. Still, even though much development is opportunistic, a plan such as the one we are considering can serve two purposes:

  1. It can guide the investment of University resources--resources not raised opportunistically, and
  2. It can serve as a constraint guiding the carrying out of opportunistic projects. Of course it can serve this second function if, and only if, it is a live plan, alive in the minds of those engaged in planning specific projects, a point to which we shall return.

The Plan Itself

The Committee saw little reason to alter the Development Plan as it received it; for the most part, we endorse the goals and strategies of the plan. What the committee did try to do was establish priorities under the plan, distinguish goals from strategies, and highlight aspects of the plan that were contained in it, but which were, perhaps, not so prominent.

Goal 1: Invest on Capital Renewal of Existing Buildings

As the committee saw it, the first goal of a campus development plan is, and should be, to invest in the capital renewal of existing buildings. We have elevated this to first position to indicate two things:

  1. It is, obviously, the most important goal of the plan--if we don't do this, there will be no campus to develop, and
  2. It is the place where most of the University's own resources need to be invested.

Strategy: There are several strategies mentioned in the plan to advance this goal. First, Facilities Services, with the assistance of consultants, has begun (and almost finished) a survey of all of the University's buildings. The survey is intended to determine the state of each building from the point of view of structural and mechanical integrity; the survey, therefore, is intended to find out what deferred maintenance is needed. Secondly, the survey is intended to determine how well the users of each space feel the space serves their program's needs. The point of this survey is to accomplish two aims:

  • Determine the need over the next decade for additional deferred maintenance funds to restore our buildings, and
  • Determine whether programs might be moved from buildings in which they do not work well into buildings better suited to their functions.

A third strategy for reinvestment in campus buildings was also identified in the plan:

Buildings, which are primarily classroom buildings, e.g., Williams Hall, tend to be orphan buildings because no school or center sees itself as responsible for it. As a consequence, though the Provost's classroom committee sees to it that the technology in the classrooms is up-to-date, there is no funding stream for the buildings themselves. A different budgeting scheme must be found for these spaces.

Goal 2: Strengthen Connections between the Various Campus Precincts and the Core

The committee lists this as the second goal because it believes that this goal will require the second largest investment of University resources.

Strategy: The strategy to be used to accomplish this goal is to develop, so far as resources permit, the three (current or planned) arteries of the campus.

  • Locust Walk is, obviously, the main boulevard of the campus. It is already thriving. But we might hope to extend the walk east, perhaps eventually even across a foot-bridge to Locust Street in Center City. To do this, alterations to Weightman Gym may be needed. But such changes should take place in the context of a plan to restore the Palestra. Restoration of the Palestra, then, may provide the opportunity to achieve this goal also. Further development to the east will require the acquisition of lands between the campus and the River. (See more on that below). The construction of a new school to the west of campus may provide the opportunity to continue Locust walk to the west.
  • Woodland Avenue might have the potential to become another major boulevard of the campus. The avenue does not quite function that way now. Parking lots and other obstacles interrupt its course. But the campus is already developing in such a way as to increase the concentration of University members along Woodland: The new Life Sciences complex will be just south of Woodland, the School of Veterinary Medicine will be building along Woodland, new residences will be constructed just north of the diagonal near Chestnut and 34th.
  • Finally, 36th Street is a main north-south artery. Its course is interrupted at the border of the Medical School Library. If the library were to be relocated it would be possible to continue 36th Street south to the Medical precinct.

Goal 3: Provide Additional Recreational Facilities and Green Space

Strategy: The plan calls for the development of some of the land along the River to the east of Campus to become athletic facilities. If this eastern land can be acquired, then the expectation is that some of it would be used for development to tie the campus to the city, but that the rest will be used for athletic facilities.

Goal 4: Reinforce the Historic Core as the Center of Campus Life and Learning

The rehabilitation of the Furness Library, the Perelman Quadrangle, Logan Hall, and College Hall are, of course, the most obvious examples of this goal; but so, too, is the use of the former Christian Association for academic purposes.

Goal 5: Create a Coherent Identity by Extending the Quality of the Historic Core

This is a matter more of attention to detail than of investment of large sums of resources. It is a matter of trying to see to it that the rest of the campus looks like it is part of the historic core rather than an entirely different place.

Strategy: The committee did not intend this to mean that architectural homogeneity should be imposed across campus. It was pointed out in our committee that some of the least distinguished architecture on campus--some of it in the core area--was constructed under a regime of enforced homogeneity, while some of the most beautiful of our buildings were unrestrained.

Goal 6: Preserve and Enhance the Residential Community in West Philadelphia

This goal is listed 6th in part because it was not expected that substantial amounts of University money would be spent on this goal.

Strategy: The University's strategy should be to act as a catalyst to encourage private development of the west side of campus. It has, quite obviously, already been doing this with the Sundance theater, the food market, and the partnership with Fannie Mae, one in which Fannie Mae will contribute most of the capital.

Goal 7: Connect the University to Center City

Penn is an urban campus; it is not Cornell. The University should embrace, not reject, the City.

Strategy: The University's strategy here should be to encourage development of a sort that is consistent with our aims, on the eastern edge of the campus. The Left Bank apartment complex is an example of such development, development that does not tax University resources.

Additional Goal

In addition to these goals, the committee made note of the fact that with the development of the Medical School south of Hamilton Walk, the creation of the LifeSciences complex south of Hamilton, and the building of a new School of Veterinary Medicine building at the south west edge of campus, a large number of Penn community members are, or will be, south of Spruce. Plans for the Stouffer retail complex are unclear. Thought needs to be devoted to how the needs of the southwest quadrant of the campus will be met.


Campus development requires an integrated transportation network. Over the course of the last two years progress has been made toward defining the objectives of a transportation plan, but as yet an integrated transportation network including motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian transportation has not been developed. Such a network is a vital part of the Development Plan. So developing a transportation master plan is one major component that still needs to be addressed in a development plan.


With regard to the transportation aspect of the plan, this committee has, for two years, called on the University to hire someone with expertise in transportation issues to oversee implementation of the transportation aspects of its development plans. And we have asked that the University find a way to speak with a single voice to the City and to the State on Transportation issues. We repeat those calls here.

With regard to building matters, the committee expressed the hope that this campus development plan would not be shipped directly to the University Archivist; the committee hopes that it will be a serious force shaping the development of individual (perhaps opportunistic) building projects. Mr. Blaik assured the committee that both at the beginning of the design phase, and at the end of the design phase, the architects responsible for the design of a project are made quite aware of the campus plan. But the committee would like to recommend that someone in particular on the Steering Committee--or its equivalent--of each new (or rehabilitated) building be given responsibility to bring the goals of the development plan to the table when the other goals of the building are being discussed. Every building we build on campus has a client, and that client's needs, obviously, must be met; but the campus as a whole is also a client, and it should--through the development plan--have a voice. We suggest that someone in particular be given this responsibility because we believe that responsibility diffused is much less effective than focused responsibility.

--John Sabini, Chair, Committee on Facilities


Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 11, November 7, 2000

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