Growth. It’s a fact of life in Northern Colorado. How we plan for it now will determine how Colorado State University and the City of Fort Collins shape the region’s future.
With more than 158,000 residents at last count, there is no question that Fort Collins has grown into a small city. By 2030, Fort Collins could add nearly 50,000 new residents.
CSU is planning for its own growth curve. The latest 10-year update to the state-mandated Campus Master Plan adopted by the CSU Board of Governors earlier this year envisions total enrollment of 35,000 – an additional 8,000 students above 2014-15 enrollment.
“The question isn’t whether we reach 35,000 students, but when,” said Amy Parsons, Executive Vice Chancellor for the CSU System. “We anticipate another year of record enrollment for 2015-16, and have undertaken the current construction projects to assure that we continue to deliver a quality education to every student who comes to CSU.”
In addition to the physical master plan, CSU has developed the 2020 Plan, which Parsons described as a “financial stress test” that maps out how the University can afford and accommodate anticipated growth, assuming state funding continues to decline.
“We looked at not only the physical plan to determine if new buildings are needed and where they go to stay true to the vision of the Master Plan, but also where the revenue for those buildings and their continuing operation and maintenance will come from,” Parsons explained. “We looked at all that, and whether we can accommodate 35,000 students on our current footprint, and our final plan holds up. However, as we grow toward 35,000, we’ll have to answer the question of whether we want to go beyond that. We can’t grow forever.”
But we can be smart about how we manage growth, and intentionally plan to use our existing space and other resources wisely and efficiently.
Grow up, not out
University planners long ago adopted the tenet of growing up, not out, in large part because the city now surrounds the once-rural campus, giving it nowhere to sprawl if it wanted to. Facilities Manager Steve Hultin pointed out that the university’s land is too precious not to build up.
“The goal is to create a campus environment where students can live and learn that reflects values they share, like sustainability and walkability, on our existing footprint,” he said.
The look and feel of the campus has evolved to keep pace with changing societal values, but remains true to the vision of Bill Morgan, president of CSU in the 1950s, said Fred Haberecht, assistant director of Facilities Management for CSU.
“When the GIs returned from World War II, campus enrollment surged to 3,800 and we had to throw up Quonset huts to house them all,” he said. “President Morgan started pushing for a bigger campus to accommodate 7,000 students by 1970, which the locals thought was a crazy number.”
The actual enrollment was closer to 17,000 by then, and some of the most iconic buildings on campus – Danforth Chapel, the Engineering Building, Rockwell and Allison halls – were in place. Then, as now, the challenge was finding a way to finance the buildings and develop the revenue stream to operate them. That’s why it has taken so long to implement parts of Morgan’s vision, which always included the open, green spaces that make the CSU experience special.
“When we talk about building greater density on campus, people tend to think that means more density everywhere,” Hultin said. “But we are really very careful to incorporate, and when we can, expand existing green spaces.”
With the Rocky Mountains rising to the west of campus, the definition of green spaces becomes even broader. Haberecht said maintaining The Great Green as open space allows campus to “borrow” the magnificent scenery. The full-length windows in the new Lory Student Center bring the mountains practically on campus, for example.
A good urban landscape is pedestrian friendly. Public transportation allows people to get out of their cars and onto the bus or train and then their own two feet for shopping, services, and other daily tasks.
CSU’s Campus Master Plan envisions faculty, staff and students choosing from a variety of transportation options for navigating to and around campus, be it a free shuttle, a bicycle, a longboard or a shared ride.
Through a close collaboration with the city, CSU students are riding transit in record numbers, making the university an integral part of the growth of the Transfort system to the benefit of the entire community.
Anyone actively employed or registered for classes with a CSU RamCard ID can ride any city bus for no charge. This includes the MAX bus rapid transit service that runs the length of the north-south Mason Corridor with connections to regional buses to Loveland, Longmont and beyond. There are three MAX stops either on or adjacent to the main campus; Transfort’s Around the Horn shuttle provides regular service to on-campus destinations as well the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Science facilities on the South Campus on Drake Road.
There are plans to make taking public transportation more convenient, including secured bike lockers operated by the RamCard at MAX stations and guaranteed emergency rides home for employees who take the bus or any form of alternative transportation, as well as ZipCar subscriptions. The Alternative Transportation Department is also working on options for employees whose schedules require them to be on campus when the buses aren’t running.
Someone once said the future isn’t what it used to be. Plans are revised to keep pace with the changing needs and desires of society. On campus, that means creating spaces where students want to live and learn – and this generation of students wants more urban amenities, and they have embraced the concept of density as a good thing.
“In the ‘70s, we put a lot of time and effort into building individual quiet study carrels in the library,” Facilities Manager Hultin said. “Now nobody wants to study in the library; they go to a coffee shop. So we are incorporating more open social areas, where groups can study and work together. Even in the library — and they can get a cup of coffee, too.”
A longer version of this story will appear in the Fall 2015 issue of CSU Magazine in September.