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Affleck-Graves introduces vision

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, February 23, 2006

Notre Dame will never again say it dreamed too small – not after its current plans for campus development.

The resounding “bigger and better” theme of University President Father John Jenkins’ inaugural address was the focus of Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting, as Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves presented both short and long-term campus master plans to senators.

Affleck-Graves projected five, ten and even 50 years into the University’s future, detailing plans for a new college town he called the “Northeast Neighborhood Project” – a mix of retail, residential and office complexes intended to “revitalize” the area south of campus.

He also outlined the projected location of new buildings on current campus maps and flipped through PowerPoint slides of architectural sketches, often describing projects as “very beautiful” and eliciting murmured “wows” from senators who apparently agreed.

Projects to be tackled in the near future, Affleck-Graves said, include expanding the law school, constructing an engineering facility, landscaping the area south of DeBartolo Hall to create a “Town Commons,” renovating the student health center and finishing the Jordan Hall of Science – described by Affleck-Graves as “the biggest, most expensive building we’ve built on campus.”

The 204,000-square-foot building is projected to open this August.

Preliminary sketches of the law school were similarly grandiose. The building is being designed with arches bigger than the supportive arch beneath Lyons.

“Imagine the band marching through there on a Saturday afternoon,” Affleck-Graves said, turning to senators sitting on his left.

Looking at a “slightly larger timeframe,” Affleck-Graves said construction would likely begin on three new residence halls within seven years. Two would be located east of Pasquerilla East and Knott – projects made possible by an agreement with the City of South Bend to close Juniper Road – while the other would be built next to McGlinn and complete the row of West Quad dorms.

“We need to spread it out more – it’s not to add more beds, but more space in the dorms,” said Affleck-Graves, who stressed that the University’s population would not increase along with the campus expansion.

Notre Dame also plans to renovate all of the current residence halls, Affleck-Graves said.

“[The goal] over the next ten to 15 years [is] to go through every dorm on campus … [and] redefine the space,” he said.

This means greater mixing of different types of rooms – triples, doubles and quads, for example – within dorms “so people can choose which they prefer,” Affleck-Graves said.

And painting an even bigger picture, Affleck-Graves said the University hopes to build a center for social sciences south of the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, construct a new four-story Center for Social Concerns and replace “the most beautiful building on campus” – the Stepan Center.

“Imagine writing an exam when it doesn’t rain on your paper,” he said, drawing laughs.

While research is still underway, Affleck-Graves said a new student activities center might fill the Stepan Center’s current location.

There’s also the possibility of building a new inn next to one of the campus lakes, Affleck-Graves said, while still keeping some of the rooms in the current Morris Inn available for visiting families.

Plans for revamping the University’s athletic facilities are similarly long-term. The athletic facilities master plan includes expanding and renovating the Joyce Center as well as building new soccer, lacrosse and softball stadiums.

But the most talked about plan of the past year has been the proposed college town development. Affleck-Graves described the four-block set-up along the Eddy Corridor as “a mix of conventional stores you know and hopefully a couple of restaurants … maybe a Trader Joe’s.”

While stores moving into the neighborhood would be independent of the University, Affleck-Graves stressed the importance of students giving feedback regarding what types of development they would like to see near campus.

“[But] the retail has to work for the campus and the city,” he said.

Restaurants will not move into the district unless they believe they can make between five and seven million dollars a year, Affleck-Graves said, revenue too large for Notre Dame students to generate alone.

Affleck-Graves said the less definite plans would be finalized once appropriate donors were located.

In other Senate news:

The Diversity Affairs committee presented a letter to senators urging rectors to hang rainbow flags in support of “the spirit of inclusion at Notre Dame,” a project to coincide with an upcoming “Stand Against Hate” campaign.

The letter quotes Notre Dame’s “Spirit of Inclusion” statement, which reads, “Notre Dame strives for a spirit of inclusion among the members of this community … we welcome all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class, and nationality.”

Committee chair Sarah Liu described the flag as a symbol of “tolerance … showing our acceptance of GLBTQ [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning] students.”

But after heated discussion, the letter was sent back to the committee for revision.

Cavanaugh senator Liz Brown said she presented the idea to her dorm’s hall council and received a skeptical response.

“I don’t really see a guarantee [that all rectors would hang the flags],” Brown said. “I don’t see how a spirit of inclusion flag on just a few dorms really fosters [a spirit of inclusion].”

Brown also said since dorms currently do not hang flags prominently, “if we were going to get any flag, it should be first the American flag.”

O’Neill senator Steve Tortorello also questioned the committee’s proposal.

“If some dorms don’t do it, you’re going to create the impression that no one in that dorm is accepting,” he said.

Tortorello said students might start jumping to conclusions about “good dorms” and “bad dorms,” depending on which halls hung the flags.

But Community Relations committee chair Nick Guzman said this would not be a worthless outcome.

“Does [not hanging the flag] mean [the hall] is not a place of inclusion?” Guzman asked. “If we can all agree [on that impression], then yes, that’s exactly what it means.”

This, Guzman said, is the reason behind the campaign – that some halls might not be willing to show support for GLBTQ questions.