Master Plan Overview



Welcome to the future of Northern Michigan University. This is a critical time in the evolution of the university. As Northern Michigan University (NMU) reflects on more than a century of existence, the university is preparing to face unique challenges to meet its strategic mission. Comprehensively, these challenges include maintaining a consistent enrollment trajectory, adjusting facilities to meet changing learning demands, and balancing the needs of campus and community interests.

To help address these issues, NMU initiated the Campus Master Plan 2008 focusing on a 15- to 20-year planning horizon. Specifically, this planning initiative addresses growth opportunities, image and identity, spatial efficiency and land utilization, community interface, new partnerships, and the development of a learner-centered, pedestrian-oriented educational community.

The planning process for the Campus Master Plan commenced in January 2007. JJR, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, led this initiative and was joined by local teammate U.P. Engineers & Architects, Inc. of Marquette, Michigan. This document represents a planning update to the 1996 document entitled Campus Master Plan.

Purpose of the Plan

The Campus Master Plan is a collection of powerful ideas that establishes a flexible "opportunity framework" for coordinating physical change on the campus. This framework institutes patterns that will maintain the campus's unique spatial characteristics while identifying opportunities for consistent and harmonious expansion. The quality of the physical environment has a tremendous influence on the image of the institution, and, as such, the Campus Master Plan serves as a foundation for shaping the campus fabric in support of its academic mission and vision. The Campus Master Plan outlines parameters to strategically manage development opportunities and confidently implement common initiatives within the short-, mid-, and long-term time horizons.

The Campus Master Plan is a balancing act.

"As a source of organic order, a master plan is both too precise, and not precise enough. The totality is too precise: the details are not precise enough. It fails because each part hinges on a conception of a "totality," which cannot respond to the inevitable accidents of time and still maintain its order. And it fails because as a result of its rigidity, it cannot afford to guide the details around buildings which really matter; if drawn in detail, these details would be absurdly rigid." 2

2 The Oregon Experiment by Christopher Alexander 1975 Oxford University Press, P 23


Campus Planning Philosophy

NMU has supported a planning philosophy rooted in its mission and founded on the premise that the campus exists as a place for people. This includes those who attend as students, those who serve as education and research professionals, and those who live in the surrounding community. High quality campuses are carefully orchestrated environments that allow for and inspire personal, physical, and spiritual growth. They are also incubators for learning, research, interaction, and communication. The quality of a campus is measured in how well the physical environment supports its diverse constituents and functions. In the end, the physical campus environs are, and will be, important barometers of its overall institutional success.

Description of Process

A sound process may be the most important part of any master planning exercise. NMU developed an inclusive, consensus-oriented committee structure to provide continuity and solid user representation. As highlighted in the Acknowledgements section at the end of this document, the planning process included faculty, students, staff, administrators, trustees, and community leaders. Each of these participants guided decision making from beginning to end, providing valuable counsel to the planning team and gaining "ownership" of the major ideas and core concepts.

This twelve-month planning process was divided into four major phases: Discovery, Alternatives, Refinement, and Documentation. The Discovery phase consisted of listening and learning. This important first step included data collection, interviews and meetings, physical analysis of existing conditions, and spatial projections to highlight shortcomings and overages for individual space categories. A detailed overview of this material can be explored in Chapter Two, "Existing Context." The Alternatives phase can be summarized as testing the imagination. This phase explored three divergent approaches to developing the future campus. These scenarios were thoroughly scrutinized before common goals and objectives were reached. Highlights of this material can be explored in Chapter Three, "Alternative Organizational Framework." The Refinement phase combined the best alternatives into a preliminary and then final plan. This portion of the Campus Master Plan allowed the users to test the plan against their goals and expectations. Finally, the Documentation phase included the creation of the final illustrative graphics and the packaging of this document.

Campus Master Plan Goals

The university embarked on this Campus Master Plan with the overarching premise to create a well ordered, safe, educationally effective, and distinctive university environment. To achieve this unity, the plan recommends strengthening existing physical relationships, challenging inefficient campus patterns, and developing compelling new patterns. Throughout the master planning process, special attention has been placed on opportunities to improve campus organization, image, and character while providing an adequate infrastructure to accommodate growth. The Campus Master Plan's core organizational precepts are derived from the following common goals:

  1. Assess the campus's infill capacity and ideal organization.
  2. Reinforce the campus's unique lakefront environment.
  3. Provide a high-quality image and identity for the institution.
  4. Improve the physical environment for students.
  5. Develop partnership opportunities.
  6. Establish a flexible planning framework.
  7. Create a more pedestrian-friendly environment in the campus core.

Executive Summary of Initiatives

This section succinctly summarizes all of the major opportunities and directives of the Campus Master
Plan. Organized by broad and actionable topics, these recommendations provide insight into the
magnitude of the potential campus "renaissance." These major initiatives were each refined and tested
throughout the planning process by a receptive university community. The following opportunities are
proudly recommended:

Change the Enrollment Trajectory

  • Develop the campus facilities and infrastructure for a target campus population of 10,400 students. Explore expanding opportunities in graduate certificates, master and doctoral programs according to institutional strengths and appropriate opportunities.
  • Increase the faculty/staff population to maintain desired ratios.
Rebalance the Campus Spatial Equation
  • Increase facility square footage in the study (library) and general use (student union) categories.
  • Reduce academic (classroom and laboratory), office, athletic, and support spatial categories. Based on national averages, NMU exceeds net assignable square footage per student in these categories.
  • Repurpose, lease, sell, or eliminate unnecessary and/or redundant facilities.

Enhance the "Front Doors" to Campus

  • Develop Presque Isle Avenue as the primary identity corridor for the university. Create a "university district" along this corridor. Introduce a gateway element at West Kaye Avenue.
  • Connect West Kaye and West Fair Avenues between North Fourth and North Seventh Streets. Work collaboratively with Marquette General Hospital to enhance the streetscape environment of this corridor.
  • Enhance Wright Street as a boulevard from Lincoln Avenue to Lake Shore Boulevard. Develop this as another "university district."
  • Invigorate all campus edges with consistent landscape treatment, setbacks, signage, lighting, and pedestrian amenities.

Strengthen the Academic Core

  •  Pursue strategic infill opportunities, building additions, renovations, and new facilities within the existing campus boundaries.
  • Employ the smart growth principles of halting campus sprawl and inefficient land use. Use additional verticality, a higher ground area coverage, and more building density.
  • Enhance the value of the campus core by expanding existing adjacencies. Cluster critical academic and learning functions in the middle of campus.
  • Demolish inefficient 1- to 2-story structures. Candidates include Carey Hall, Spooner Hall, West Hall, Gries Hall, and Summit/Center Apartments.
  • Develop one campus. Repair the "separate zones" of the campus with walkways, building infill, open space connections, and/or view corridors. Categorically, the disconnected components of campus include:
    • Athletic campus (east campus between Presque Isle Avenue and Lake Superior).
    • Original academic core (west of Presque Isle Avenue).
    • New academic core (west of North Seventh Street and Tracy Avenue).
    • Lower campus (east of Tracy Avenue).
    • Residence life cluster (south of Wright Street).
    • Jacobetti Complex and Services Building (north of Wright Street).

Connect Upper and Lower Campus

  • Use the east-west topographic change as a strategic advantage for the university. Develop strong view corridors to Lake Superior.
  • Create interesting walkways, ramps, landings, and stairs to embrace the topography.
  • Enhance the stand of mature evergreen and deciduous hardwood canopy trees as a green ribbon through campus.
  • Employ architecture and/or building massing to capture views and to physically connect the upper campus to lower campus. Prevent architecture from "turning its back" on this elevation change.

Create a Lakefront Campus

  • Bring the view, character, and sense of Lake Superior into the interior of campus. This includes plant material, design elements, and a waterfront motif.
  • Enable pedestrian and non-motorized east-west connections from the athletic campus across Presque Isle Avenue to the academic core.
  • Develop traffic calming and deliberate pedestrian crosswalks along Presque Isle Avenue.
  • Relocate surface parking west of Lake Shore Boulevard. This will enhance views into the campus and create unobstructed views from the athletic campus to the water.
  • Maintain and enhance viewsheds between the academic core and Lake Superior. Use the topography advantageously.

Enhance the Residential Campus

  • Develop two additional residential neighborhoods on campus: one adjacent to and north of the original academic core and a second along the Center Street corridor on the lower campus.
  • Enhance the north campus residence life neighborhood (south of Wright Street) through creative infill and the careful addition of new units.
  • Create rich, active, and well-lit pedestrian routes across the core connecting residence halls to major academic, student life, and recreational and open space destinations.
  • Increase the on-campus population from 36 percent to 41 percent. Adding housing in new locations is intended to create a safer, more vibrant 24-hour, 7-day-a-week campus experience.

Improve the Pedestrian Environment

  • Enhance the main Academic Mall. Extend this pedestrian fabric east and west to a clear, unobstructed linear organizational spine. Connect this great space to a series of new and interconnected signature open spaces.
  • Utilize the outdoor spaces on campus as a mechanism to enhance student learning opportunities, social exchange, and the overall collegiate experience.
  • Connect campus destinations and "front doors" with an enhanced sidewalk system. Ensure that all major campus destinations, streets, and pedestrian desire lines are developed with hard surface, permanent materials.
  • Develop a consistent and appropriate landscape vernacular. This includes hardscape, plant material, lighting, amenities, and signage.
  • Utilize overhead connectors to facilitate ADA accessible and inclement weather pedestrian circulation.
  • Embrace climate-sensitive design parameters to enhance the winter pedestrian experience.

Develop Peripheral Parking and Circulation

  • Develop a rich pedestrian environment by removing large expanses of interior surface parking. Develop well-distributed peripheral parking lots to meet the needs of students (resident and commuter), faculty, and staff.
  • Eliminate small, inefficient surface interior parking lots.
  • Provide priority parking spaces to university visitors and disabled users.
  • Reconfigure and consolidate (as practical) loading docks and building service points. Avoid conflicts between major pedestrian corridors and these service elements.
  • Remove vehicular corridors that bisect the campus core:
    • Lee Hall Drive between West Kaye Avenue and North Seventh Street
    • North Seventh Street between West Kaye Avenue and Tracy Avenue
    • Schaffer Avenue between Center and Summit Streets
  • Challenge the existing relationship of people per parking space to a higher ratio. Demand a higher utilization of existing parking areas before investing in new surface parking.
  • Consider developing a 3-5 percent reduction initiative to encourage walking, bicycling, carpooling, mass transit, etc. to lower parking demand on campus.

Introduce Structured Parking

  • Implement a parking strategy that employs a mixed-use parking structure on the corner of North Seventh Street and West Kaye Avenue. The university has surpassed a minimum floor area ratio (FAR) density threshold where vertical parking is required.
  • Consider adding a parking structure under part of the proposed terrace building that connects upper and lower campus.
  • Develop a parking pro-forma evaluation to restructure the entire fee, utilization, and debt management of the parking system.

Explore Private Development Partnerships

  • Develop opportunity zones for university-controlled partnerships. These zones are envisioned to support student commercial activities and enhance the image of the university.
    • Presque Isle Avenue Corridor: This area could be a living/learning district (retail and housing) and provide a partnership opportunity between the university and/or the City of Marquette, and a third party development entity.

Partner with Marquette General Hospital

  • Develop a lease agreement for Marquette General Hospital to utilize the Bottum University Center.
  • Create a physical linkage between the Bottum University Center and the existing Marquette General Hospital parking structure south of West Kaye Avenue.
  • Preserve an eastward building expansion envelope for the Bottum University Center. Work collaboratively with Marquette General Hospital to determine the long-term need for a parking structure element at the corner of West Kaye Avenue and Lee Hall Drive.

Create a Research and Technology Corridor

  •  Create a research and technology corridor between Wright Street and Union Street, and Sugar Loaf Avenue and Neidhart Avenue. This is an alternate land use location as suggested in the City of Marquette's 2004 Community Master Plan.
  • Utilize this proposed land use with the Jacobetti Complex and the Services Building to strengthen the connection to the academic core.

Off-Campus Lands

  • Enhance the role of the Mount Marquette (Shiras) and Longyear tracts for environmental and biological research.
  • Expand the usage of these important parcels for the greater university community. Encourage active recreation, non-motorized trail use, school group participation, and educational outreach.

Invest in a Sustainable Future

  • Introduce Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) principles to all building, site development, and facility initiatives.
  • Develop a landscape and campus site resource minimization strategy.