November 30, 2020

Master Plan addresses campus expansion

Future expansion of Webster University’s main campus is currently being considered within the new Master Plan. However, because of city constraints from Webster Groves, the university is limited in its expansion — if the campus is to expand in the future, some existing buildings and areas will have to go.
Recently, concerns generated around the possible removal of two historic buildings  — the H. Sam Priest House and the Pearson House. Steve Strang, Webster’s senior project manager, insists that those conducting the Master Plan will do everything to make sure the two historic homes are not touched.
“Students really like those houses,” Strang said. “Most people want to see them stay. We’re laying out strategies of what is the best way to go (expansion-wise). No one has targeted (Priest and Pearson) for demolition.”
Strang said alternatives are being considered to prevent older buildings on campus, like Priest and Pearson, from being removed. One option is to add on to one or both buildings, or incorporate them into a newer building.
“Without touching history, we still have options,” he said.
Some are skeptical about the idea to add on or incorporate an old building like Pearson House into something newer and modern.
“I don’t see how any add-ons could be made to Pearson,” said English professor Steve Lattimore, whose office and classes are located in Pearson. “It’s old. It’s its own thing. You can’t really add to something that’s personal and like home.”
Electronic and photo media professor Bill Barrett, a member of the Master Plan Steering committee, confirms that, though existing buildings are being considered for removal, Priest and Pearson are not in the mix.
“They’re looking at existing buildings — which ones are most efficient? Which ones are probably going to change?,” Barrett said. “It’s really brainstorming at this point, but the historical homes don’t seem to be the focus.”
Barrett and Strang both stress that expansion consideration is still in its early stages and no definitive decisions have been made. However, Barrett said he’d be surprised to see buildings like the Kirk House make it into the expansion plan.
“I cannot imagine a plan that doesn’t get rid of the Kirk House,” Barrett said. “It’s not a building that, for the long-term, we see staying.”
Lattimore said he is glad to hear that the beautiful historic homes won’t be getting the ax, as he believes Pearson, especially, adheres perfectly to the Webster student.
“Pearson House is the kind of place that attracts the kind of students who come to Webster,” he said. “It feels personal, and not institutional. These houses add to the funky little liberal arts college that is Webster.”

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