November 29, 2020

Webster hires architecture firm, Sasaki Associates, to create new master plan

Sasaki Associates, an architecture and urban development firm based in Boston, was contracted by Webster University for the next 10 months to develop a new master plan. It will aim to guide the university for the next 15 years.

The university is seeking a master plan to replace an older plan that predates 2004. According to Webster University project manager Steve Strang, the plan will include a five-year implementation period for immediate goals, with a 10-year fixture on long-term development. Webster’s exponential growth in the last decade necessitates a new master plan to guide future expansion, Strang said.

“We have had so much in the past few years that was outside of our last plan, that needs to be taken into consideration as we move forward,” Strang said. “The new (School of Business and Technology) building, among other things, really calls on us to reexamine our direction.”

Dan Kenney, Director of Campus Planning for Sasaki, is the principal architect for the university plan. Kenney said a new science facility is a primary concern for Webster, as well as optimizing student housing. Kenney, who has 25 years of campus design background, leads a team of urban developers from Sasaki, as well as representatives from Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and The Scion Group. Both sub-contractors are helping to advise the process.

Jacobs will be advising on construction and engineering with Sasaki. They will provide traffic and parking studies, as well as other resources, according to Strang. The Scion Group, a student housing consulting firm, will be assisting the campus in assessing student-housing options.

“Webster has a very unique profile,” Kenney said. “It’s based in Webster Groves, but there are these satellite campuses, big and small, all over the country and the world.  Those campuses have photos of the Webster Groves campus in their offices. We want to bring that sense of branding and unity back to the home campus.”

Kenney said his team would be focused on optimizing the resources and space available, and “branding” the university. Kenney said incorporating more elements of the international schools in the designing of the Webster Groves campus was essential to the process.

“I think the university has a 21st century way of looking at higher education,” Kenney said. “We want to enhance the identity of this campus in a way that reflects the identity and the mission.”

Even though Kenney has visited Webster three times, the official kickoff to the planning process is on Sept. 20. The Sasaki team will make several trips to the university for the next 10 months, for several days at once.

Strang said that once all the relevant data has been collected, the planning process has four parts: assessment, exploration, master plan development and community engagement. Strang said local community groups will play a large part in their development of the plan, as well as the Neighborhood Advisory Council and the Old Orchard Taxing District. Strang said the university is developing a website to offer information about the planning and provide means for public feedback. The website will be linked to the university homepage, and is set to launch in accordance with the planning kickoff on Sept. 20.

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