December 4, 2020

Master plan prioritizes future building projects

The Master Plan Steering Committee will be dissolved as the master plan moves toward completion within the next two months.

The Campus Design Review Board was recently created to oversee the master plan long-term. It will help Webster establish landscape and architectural guidelines. The board’s goal is to keep the campus cohesive. The board met for the first time on April 17. Board members will continue to meet every time a building plan needs to be reviewed. The board is smaller than the Master Plan Steering Committee and contains a mix of faculty, students and administrators. Depending on the project, a landscaper or architect may also join the board.

Loren Douglass, senior and undergraduate representative on the Steering Committee, said this is an important time for Webster.

“It’s moving in a new direction. It’s unfortunate seeing all these great plans knowing that I won’t be around. But it’s great when you come back — it’s your alma mater and, at the end of the day, you want it to be the best it can be for all the students,” Douglass said.

The interdisciplinary science building and the parking garage extension are both high priorities in the proposed master plan. After these two projects, Greg Gunderson, Chief Financial Officer, said the university would begin other building projects to enhance student life, housing and athletics. Then, they would focus on the Visual Arts Studio.

Gunderson said the order of completion of these projects is, in part, driven by donor behavior. The university is looking for alumni and donor contributions.

“We have to enhance housing, enhance student life and educational facilities. It has to be done with a balance. Because if we do everything but housing, we will get out of whack pretty quick. So there are going to be move-forwards and starts on a bunch of fronts,” Gunderson said. “You’ve got to keep rationing it back and forth. The master plan implementation will be a balancing act.”

Gunderson said students’ needs and the donations the university receives would impact the university’s priorities in regards to future building projects.
He also stated Webster has approximately $60 million available for capital projects. Some of those projects have already begun such as renovations for the Webster Hall elevator. Gunderson said Webster has enough cash in the bank for most of the projects they will want to do for the next three years. After that, Gunderson said more revenue from increased enrollment will help fund future projects.

“Our goal of these projects is to generate more enrollment. And more enrollment is more revenue, and more revenue will create a base to fund additional projects,” Gunderson said. “We fund projects with debt, with accumulated financial reserves and with endowment gifts.”

Webster currently has money set aside in a capital fund. Those funds have been accumulated over time. Some of them are from endowment gifts specifically given for future buildings on campus.

Webster also issued a slightly larger bond, similar to a loan, it paid off last year, which brought $20 million into the capital fund. Webster extinguished its existing bond last year. The new bond is less restrictive.

Webster has added money to the capital bond in the past. When Webster has money left over at the end of the year, some goes to the endowment fund and some goes to the capital project fund. Gunderson said educational programs will not be asked to absorb costs of new buildings and labs. Students will not have additional lab fees to cover costs due to the new building. However, if a department wants to add equipment or spaces after the project is complete, students may have higher fees. Gunderson said things change, but raising student fees to fund buildings hasn’t been Webster’s intent.

Gunderson said Webster doesn’t look for tuition to directly fund new buildings. The standards for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification also affect the cost of building. Webster’s objective is that future buildings on campus meet at least LEED silver standards. However, if the university decides to go for gold certification, the price of the building will raise.

Webster plans to use Luhr Library at neighboring Eden Seminary as a “swing space.” As they remodel one area, they will temporarily relocate faculty, staff and students from that area to Luhr Library. After using the library temporarily, Webster will center information technology in that space.

For specific information on the proposed buildings in the master plan:

Interdisciplinary Science Building

Parking Garage

Art Building

Recreation Center

Student Center

Housing

Q & A with Dan Kenney, a planning principal in Sasaki’s Campus Studio

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